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Closeup of crowded teeth in dental patient's mouth

Upper jaw expansion is an orthodontic treatment that creates more space growth for developing kids by widening the circumference of the palate. This procedure helps correct crossbites, reduces overcrowding, and improves breathing ability. Most adolescents will receive this treatment before 16 years of age, but adults can also expand their upper jaw, if needed, as well. Read on to find out how upper jaw expansion works and what the advantages are with these tips!

 

Jaw Positioning and Malocclusion

Many patients deal with malocclusion, or crooked teeth and a poor bite. A poor bite refers to the way the upper and lower teeth line up, which is affected by the structure of the jaw. A “normal bite” consists of the upper teeth sitting slightly forward of the lower teeth, which allows for proper movement. Malocclusion is normally a cosmetic problem, but when it interferes with how teeth erupt, it can cause crooked teeth and tooth decay. A common cause of malocclusion is having too much or too little room in the jaw, which affects whether teeth grow in crowded or crooked. The shape and size of the jaw can also affect how severe someone’s malocclusion is, but thumb-sucking and tooth loss can also influence this process. For many patients, especially children, malocclusion is caused by a limited amount of space in the mouth for teeth to grow, so they either grow in crooked or the bite is altered. For this reason, many young dental patients receive upper jaw expansion treatments to allow more room in the mouth and prevent malocclusion. As more study and insight has been gained on the structure of the mouth, there are now more possibilities to fix incorrect bites, adjust occlusion and prevent crooked teeth starting from an earlier age.

 

Reasons For Upper Jaw Expansion

Upper jaw expansion is a specific treatment for widening the circumference of the palate to increase the perimeter of the dental arch in the mouth, which creates more space for teeth to grow. When there is enough room for teeth to grow, they are more likely to develop correctly. During childhood, palatal or maxillary expanders are used to aid this process. Through these expanders, dentists can help correct a crossbite that is caused by malocclusion. Normally, the upper teeth should close around the outside of the lower teeth, but when someone has a narrow palate, the opposite can occur and create a crossbite. As the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth, an asymmetrical growth of the lower jaw can develop and change the symmetry of one’s face. This can cause serious complications if not addressed early on. Lastly, upper jaw expansion methods improve breathing ability, which is greatly affected by a narrow jaw. A narrow or deep upper jaw can make it difficult for a child to breathe through their nose and results in constant mouth breathing. While it doesn’t sound very serious, consistent mouth breathing keeps the mouth open at night, allowing for unfiltered bacteria to enter into the oral cavity, causing dry mouth and halitosis (bad breath).

 

Treatment OptionsPatient with dental expander in mouth being treated by dentist

Upper jaw expansion is most successful when done at an earlier age while the mouth is still developing. For adults, those with a crossbite may only need a dental expansion instead of a palatal expansion, but may need surgery if palatal expansion is required to fix concerns. Depending on the age of the patient and the reason for treatment, a rapid palatal expander (RPE) may be used to increase the width of the jaw. The RPE is attached to the upper molars by bonding or cemented bands, and uses a special key that is used to widen the space by turning a screw in the appliance at certain points in time. This process puts extra pressure on the two halves of the upper jaw, which causes extra bone to grow between them. Gradually, by turning the screw with the key each day, the jaw widens to make room available for developing teeth. For adults, removable expanders can be used, as well, whenever the degree of expansion is minimal. Resembling a partial denture, removable expanders are typically made of chrome and recommended for adults as they more easily comply with treatment. After treatment, an orthodontic retainer may be given to maintain the space until all permanent teeth have developed. A third but least common option for expansion is a surgically assisted rapid palatal expander (SARPE), which is a combination of orthodontic treatment and surgery. This is used in the case that expansion cannot be achieved by the appliance alone. A custom appliance is made before surgery, and while during surgery, the upper jaw is intentionally fractured to separate it into movable sections. This allows the bone to grow between the fractures after the appliance is inserted.

 

Pros and Cons

Palatal expanders help straighten teeth, improve breathing and fix incorrect bites, but there are important suggestions to make note of. Since children are most likely to have one, a palatal expander, just like any orthodontic appliance, needs to be thoroughly cleaned each day to prevent plaque buildup and decay around the teeth. For young children, this can be difficult to do without help and can be easily overlooked, so parental supervision is essential. Additionally, the entire process can cost up to $3,000, depending on the degree of correction. For many, there is also some minor discomfort during expansion, but it is well worth it when you’re avoiding an inaccurate bite later in life.

 

For more information on which treatment option is best to fix yours or your child’s palate, call Belmar Orthodontics at (303) 225-9016! Our experienced team is dedicated to improving your oral health and getting you the smile that you deserve!

 

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girl with crooked teeth that needs orthodontic care

Palatal expanders—usually worn by preteens—are commonly used to widen the jawbone and help treat certain orthodontic conditions. Expanders help prevent tooth extraction and can sometimes shorten the time needed for orthodontic treatment. Expanders may sound extreme, but arch expansion is one of the most common ways to eliminate crowding and crossbites in growing patients. While adapting to a palatal expander usually takes a day or two, it may take up to two weeks. Learn all about palatal expanders and how they can help your orthodontic care!

 

Infant Teeth Vs. Adult Teeth

A child’s mouth is not like an adult’s mouth. An infant will begin to get their teeth between 6-12 months. They will have the bottom two front teeth come in first, followed by the upper two front teeth and so on towards the back of the mouth. These teeth will be spaced out more than the adult teeth and there will only be 20 instead of 32 like an adult has. The spaces will allow growing room in your mouth for the permanent teeth to come in once your child is old enough to get them.

 

Between the ages of 6 and 13, your child’s baby teeth will begin to fall out in order to make way for the adult, permanent teeth. This is an exciting time, as your child is beginning to grow into a teenager, where they will have adult teeth. This childhood time of growing is the easiest time to fix bite and alignment problems.

 

palatal expander needed for a narrow arch

Child Orthodontics

We not only do orthodontic treatment for adults, but also for children. The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children have their first orthodontic visit between the ages of 7 and 8. Having an examination early-on helps prevent the progression of orthodontic issues that can become severe as your child ages. We mostly look for proper bite and teeth alignment, but we also make sure that there is enough room in your child’s mouth for the adult teeth to come in properly.

 

If we find that your child’s bite is not aligned, we will fit them for braces. This will bring their bite back into proper alignment, thus reducing the risk of crooked and broken teeth, speech impediments, problems eating and chewing, and problems with the adult teeth. We refer to this early orthodontic intervention as “child orthodontics”. Some patients have a small mouth with a small palate. A small palate can cause many health problems, which is why we have a service for palatal expanders.

 

What Are Palatal Expanders?

Some children’s jaw’s aren’t big enough for their incoming adult teeth. Sometimes, removing a tooth is the best option for a patient to make room for their adult teeth. However, we like to try palatal expanders first to make extra room in your mouth without removing a tooth. The palate of the mouth is the roof of the mouth above the tongue. That’s where palatal expanders are used. These are appliances that stretch parts of your mouth where bone and cartilage lie so that more room grows in your mouth. Palatal expanders are generally used if there is enough bone and gum tissue around the teeth. If not, a tooth is removed instead. There is an upper and lower jaw palatal expander, which do the following:

  • Upper Jaw Palatal Expanders – An expander in the upper jaw of the mouth seeks to stretch the bone and cartilage of your palate. Expanding this area will grow and stretch a child’s arch so there is room for all the adult teeth. Making this extra room through natural stretching will prevent crowding of the teeth as well as cross bite problems in children. Palatal expanders in the upper jaw are actual appliances we stick in your mouth to stretch this area. We attach the expanders to your back molars with metal rings. In some patients, the attachments are removable. As a child’s mouth expands, you may notice a gap starting to form between the two front teeth. This is normal and their appliance is in for several weeks or months.
  • Lower Jaw Palatal Expanders – This type of expander will simply moves the teeth if they are tipped inward instead of straight up.

 

child with crooked teeth

Additional Appliances

There are also other devices we use in certain cases when it comes to orthodontic care. Some patients will need TADs to help shift their teeth into a straighter position. These are “Temporary Anchorage Devices” that are mini titanium screws. These are sometimes referred to as “mini-implants” or “micro-implants”. They are screws that provide a fixed object that is used to push, pull, lift or intrude teeth during the straightening process.

 

If you need tads, Dr. Hardy will carefully numb your gum tissue and jaw area before placing these tiny screws in your jawbone. With our local anesthesia, this procedure is completely painless and getting accustomed to your TADs only takes 1-2 days total. These anchorage mini screws will help your orthodontic treatment be faster.

 

A Straighter Smile for You

Dr. Hardy will evaluate your teeth to determine if palatal expanders, TADs and other appliances are needed for your teeth. Palatal expanders are needed before you receive braces and TADs are used during your time with braces. Palatal expanders is one step closer to a beautiful smile for our patients. If you want to know more or are ready to get braces, call Belmar Orthodontics today at (303) 225-9016!