6 Common Questions About Palatal Expanders

Many young kids are referred to our office by their dentist, and parents are often wondering why we see kids that are 7 to 10 years old. In some cases, there may be a bone size imbalance between the upper and lower jaw, and palatal expanders are a great way to correct these problems to set children up for more balanced growth and tooth eruption as they enter adolescence. Here are some common questions that I answer on a daily basis about palatal expanders.

1) Why does my child need an expander?
A palatal expander is typically used to widen the upper jaw when it is too narrow compared to the lower jaw. It commonly treats a dental condition known as "cross bite" which is when the top teeth fit inside the bottom teeth. In some cases, expanders are used to create room for teeth that are stuck or impacted.

2) What does an expander do?
A palatal expander widens the upper jaw slowly to correct a bone size problem and make room for more teeth. It works by actually pushing the bones apart on the roof of the mouth, and then holds the bones in the new position while solid bone is created on the roof of the mouth. This new bone that forms will stabilize the correction.

3) What can we expect with our new palatal expander?
It make take up to one week to adjust to an expander. Your child may feel some pressure on the roof of the mouth and on the molar teeth. Your child may also complain that it feels funny to swallow as his or her tongue must adjust to the new appliance. Spacing may occur between the front teeth as the upper jaw widens.

4) Will the expander be painful?
We rarely hear complaints of pain with a palatal expander since are slowing moving the teeth and the bones. Tongue discomfort in the first week is the most common complaint.

5) Are there any eating restrictions?
Hard and sticky foods can dislodge the expander. We recommend avoiding all sticky and chewy candies as well as very hard foods.

6) How long does will the expander stay in place?
Typically, an expander will be in place for about 9 months total time. This may vary from child to child depending on his or her needs.

I hope this information is helpful in answering some common questions about expanders. If you have any other questions or are looking for more information, feel free to send us an email or call for a complimentary consultation. As Downers Grove's community orthodontist, I look forward to helping you and your family : )

- Dr. Zach

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