Upper jaw expansion is a form of orthodontic treatment that is used in Phase I and/or Phase II treatment. By widening the circumference of the palate, the perimeter of the dental arch increases, creating space for the alignment of teeth.
Why use a palatal expander?
There are several reasons for a palatal expander:
- Corrects a crossbite. In a normal, healthy bite, the upper teeth is positioned outside of the lower teeth. In a patient with a narrow upper jaw, the upper teeth comes into contact inside the lower teeth. A crossbite can result in poor ability to chew and may negatively affect the development of the upper and lower jaws.
- To create space and help alleviate crowding of teeth.
- Improves breathing ability. A narrow upper jaw makes it challenging for a child to breathe through their nose. This results in a tendency for mouth breathing and snoring which can lead to dehydration of the gum tissues and gum problems. These conditions can be corrected by expanding the width of the palate to accommodate the development of all your child's teeth, open up the nasal passages and improve the bite.
When is an appropriate age for palatal expansion?
Upper jaw expansion is most successful when it's performed in children under the age of 16, even though newer technology that Dr Chong uses allows crossbites to be corrected even beyond age 16. Crossbite expansion should ideally be treated as young as possible, when the modification of jaw growth can be easily achieved.
What is a Rapid Palatal Expander?
A common way to expand the jaw is using a fixed appliance known as the rapid palatal expander (RPE). This appliance is attached to the upper first molars and the palate is widened by placing a key into the screw in the center of the appliance. The gentle outward pressure placed on the two halves of your child's upper jaw allows extra bone to grow between them. Expansion is usually achieved in small increments and maintained with the expander in place for at least 3-4 months. Dr Chong will design a palatal expander that is customized to your specific needs and determine the amount of expansion necessary for a stable, healthy bite.
How do I care for my palatal expander?
Dental hygiene is very important during upper jaw expansion. We recommend brushing three times a day and using a waterpik or any oral irrigation device to flush out debris that may get caught in the expander. Rinsing with a fluoride rinse also can help prevent the development of cavities.