Ever wonder what a palate expander was? Or why they are used? Or simply wonder why your friend’s daughter needs one and yours doesn’t?
Well, did you know that orthodontics is more than just straight teeth? As orthodontists, we are specialists in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. Monitoring and guiding facial and jaw growth is an important part of our practice and an effective way to treat certain malocclusions.
As you probably know, orthodontics (“ortho” – straight, “dontics” – teeth) simply means straight teeth. However, dentofacial (“dento” – teeth, “facial” – face) orthopedics (“ortho” – straight, “ped” – child) is most likely something new. Broken down, we see it is this extra specialization that allows us, the orthodontist, to recognize and re-align discrepancies in growth and development of the jaws and the resulting malocclusion (“mal” – bad, “occlusion” – bite).
This is where the palatal expander comes in. It allows us to take advantage of a unique time during which the dynamic process of growth and development can be positively influenced.
The palate (the roof of your mouth) is actually the combination of two bones that come together and fuse in the middle called a suture. Fortunately, this fusion is not complete until a little after puberty (before age 12) and provides the perfect window of opportunity to exert influence.
The gentle force of the expander places tension on the suture and causes the body to grow new bone. It is this increased palatal width that ultimately creates more room for the teeth.
Expanding the upper jaw has many benefits. It can broaden the smile, it can eliminate the need for adult teeth to be removed due to severe crowding, it can help prevent the need for a surgical procedure for an impacted tooth, and it can also improve breathing if your child suffers from signs of obstructive sleep apnea.
Just like you wouldn’t skip a wellness check at the pediatrician, you shouldn’t skip an early trip to the orthodontist. A visit to your orthodontist will help keep your child’s oral health and development in check. And just like most things in life, dental health is more manageable if you get ahead of it today.
PHOTO CAP: Here we can see treatment with an expander created proper width of the upper jaw, corrected the bite, created space for the adult teeth, and gave a beautiful broad smile!