New patient exam, Check. Records, Check. Spacers, Check.
Now we get to the expander. The most common orthodontic appliance used in children for orthodontics is the palatal expander. This appliance look intimidating to patients. During your New patient exam, the orthodontist decides how much expansion is necessary for your treatment.
So what can you expect while your child has an expander in their mouth?
An expander promotes arch expansion, which is one of the most common ways to eliminate crowding and crossbites in growing patients. An expander is attached to the upper arch by bands placed around the teeth and or plastic bonded over the teeth. Although there are removable expanders, fixed ones have an important advantage because they cannot be lost or forgotten. During the expander process a gap will open between the two front teeth as the suture is widened. This gap will close by itself as soon as the expansion is completed. The expander must stay in place for 6 months after expansion for the upper jaw bones to grow back together and form a new suture.
Some initial discomfort is common when an expander is placed. This is because there has never been anything like it that has ever been attached to the teeth before. All in all, the upper arch expansion is relatively painless. Patients have reported that they feel pressure on the teeth, behind the nose, and even between the eyes as their expander is activated. However, this pressure fades within minutes.
Besides pressure, you can also expect your child to speak differently for the first few days. Additionally, you may hear them slurping as their mouth creates extra saliva after the expander is put in. It is completely normal for the front teeth to feel a little loose and be sore as the expander does move.
Some advice to make the first couple of days bearable as they adapt to the expander. Have them eat yogurt, pudding, mashed potatoes, ice cream, etc, just to limit chewing is a must. A day or two after the expander will feel natural in their mouth and normal eating will resume. Although expanders are a little bit more forgiving of hard and sticky foods than say your braces, it is recommended that patients avoid jelly like candies that would get stuck in the expansion screw such as gummy bears, caramel, etc.
After your orthodontist indicates that you’ve reached your target with the expander, he or she will instruct you on how long the retainer should stay in place to stabilize the results. This may range from two months to the entire length of treatment.
If your treatment plan includes an expander, take a deep breath, there is nothing to be afraid of, everything will be okay. You’re one step closer to a beautiful smile!
For more information and to schedule your New Patient Exam, visit us at Burleson Orthodontics.
Kim Bui born and raised in Kansas City, graduated from high school at St. Teresa’s Academy and college at Rockhurst University. Now Kim is persuing her masters in Business. With her charisma, Kim welcomes every patient with a smile and willingness to make their experience something to rave about.