One of the most used orthodontic appliances used in young patients is the palatal expander. At first sight, this appliance may look intimidating to our young patients and the thought of having to “turn” it each day frightens many parents as well.
So… What can you expect while your child has an expander in their mouth?
Arch expansion is one of the more common ways to negate crowding and crossbites in our young and growing patients. Successful widening of the upper arch requires that the midpalatal suture at the roof of the mouth is not fused together. So in this sense, we are using our young patient’s growth to our advantage, as time is on our side.
The expander is attached to the upper arch by bands placed around the first permanent molars with dental cement, so this is not something that can be taken out by our patients. Although there are removable expanders, Dr. Varghese prefers a fixed expander, as the appliance will not be lost or forgotten.
While there will be some discomfort at the very beginning when an expander is initially placed, our patients report a few day adjustment period before they are more comfortable with their daily activities. During daily turning (usually 21 turns for 21 days), our young patients may feel a small amount of pressure on the teeth, in the roof of their mouth, behind the nose, and sometime between the eyes as their expander is being activated by the person turning it. We assure you that this pressure fades within minutes!
Besides the pressure, our little patient may be speaking a little differently for the first few days. We recommend reading a book aloud while at home. We recommend reading a book out loud to help the tongue adjust to the expander for the annunciation of words. The more you read out loud and talk, the faster your speech will return to normal.
One of the most visible signs the expander is working is the space it will make between the two front teeth, so do NOT worry! This is completely normal and expected 🙂 Due to the possibility of relapse, which is the movement back towards the original position, Dr. Varghese will keep the expander in place for the remaining length of treatment to allow the new bone that has formed to mature. If an expander is removed too early, some of the width gained will be lost.