Why Does My Child Need an Expander?

When you bring your child into our orthodontic office to discuss potential early phase orthodontic treatment options, you may end up hearing your child needs a palatal expander. Not every child who undergoes early orthodontics will need one, but it could be beneficial in certain cases.

What Is an Expander?

A palatal expander is a small device that gets installed in your child’s palette – the roof of their mouth. This device consists of a metal base and wires that connect to the sides of the roof of the mouth and the upper teeth. Over time, this device is adjusted to put more pressure on the upper teeth to expand the palette.

Why Might My Child Need an Expander?

Normally, the upper teeth will fit slightly outside the lower teeth when your child bites down. However, some children’s jaws develop in a way where the upper rear teeth fit inside of the lower rear teeth when they bite down, which is also known as a posterior crossbite. When your child gets treatment with a palatal expander, the posterior crossbite is fixed and their jaw will bite down normally.

Problems Fixed with a Palatal Expander

A posterior crossbite can be problematic for many reasons. When the upper jaw is too small, the teeth that come in after the baby teeth don’t have enough room to erupt correctly. This leads to crowding, where teeth are tightly pressed against each other and may grow in crooked.

Crowded teeth not only result in a crooked smile, but they also increase the risk for long-term oral health problems since cleaning in between teeth is much more difficult. Posterior crossbites also increase the risk of impaction, which means the adult teeth never erupt and stay beneath the gums. Impaction can lead to chronic discomfort, jaw pain, or headaches. It can also lead to sinus problems due to pressure near the sinuses.

Also, when the upper teeth are positioned further inside the jaw than they are supposed to be, it can start to put pressure on the tongue. This results in a higher risk of your child biting their tongue on a regular basis and can make speaking more difficult. Having a posterior crossbite can also cause troubles when it comes to breathing. The excess pressure in the upper jaw can make breathing through the nose quite difficult, leading to mouth breathing. Getting an expander can remedy all of these issues while setting your child up for further success in their oral health down the road.

The jaw problems that lead to your child needing a palatal expander are often genetic, but they can also be the result of bad habits that don’t go away with age. For instance, if your child sucks their thumb past the age of four, this can cause problems with the way the upper jaw develops. There are ways to effectively stop your child from thumb-sucking to help avoid this issue.

If you think your child may benefit from an expander or other early orthodontic treatments, contact Smith Orthodontics today!