Everyone who visits Braces and Smiles wants to flash a perfect smile. However not everyone is born with perfectly straight teeth. Many subtle problems go unnoticed when checking out someone’s smile. Crooked teeth are more obvious, but how your teeth fit together is just as important when creating a great smile and orthodontic result over the long haul for good dental health.
Underdeveloped growth or narrowing of the upper jaw is one of the major causes of crowding. If the upper jaw is too narrow, there is not enough room for all the permanent teeth to erupt, which results in crowding, crossbites, underbites, or an edge-to-edge bite. Different factors can lead to narrow upper jaw growth:
• Thumb sucking beyond the age of three or more
• Mouth breathing due to allergies or enlarged tonsils and adenoids
• Tongue thrusting
• Family history
Although these problems may look harmless, they may have serious long-term consequences on aesthetics and both dental and physical health.
• Chewing of food is difficult and may cause digestive problems
• Speech may be affected resulting in emotional trauma
• Premature wearing of enamel on teeth requiring extensive dental care over a lifetime
Palatal expanders are often placed while a child is still growing. They are used to widen the upper jaw so that the upper teeth fit properly together out and over the lower teeth. The appliance is cemented in place on the upper teeth (usually molars) and patients and/or parents are taught how to advance the screw of the expander on a daily basis. The screw is expanded slowly to minimize discomfort. Once the palate is expanded to the correct width determined by your orthodontist, the patient is instructed to stop turning the screw. The appliance remains in place until the soft cartilage in the palate fills in. This entire process normally takes only 4 – 6 months, start to finish.
The appliance is then removed and a removable retainer is placed to maintain the expansion until most of the permanent teeth erupt. Palatal expanders will not prevent the need for braces when all the permanent teeth erupt, but often times will eliminate the need for extraction of permanent teeth to create space or invasive jaw surgery to correct the growth discrepancy after the jaws fully develop.
Early interceptive orthodontics by Dr. Brian Lee using a palatal expander often makes the difference between a good orthodontic result and a great orthodontist when creating a beautiful smile that lasts a lifetime. Please contact our office with any questions or to schedule a complimentary first examination to determine if your child would benefit from this type of treatment.