Orthodontic treatment can involve much more than just metal braces or Invisalign® aligners. Sometimes our Grand Rapids orthodontist will use appliances like headgear, a space maintainer, or a palatal expander to build the foundation for a perfect smile.
Here’s what you need to know about palatal expanders and 3 things to be aware of prior to having one.
Often included as part of Phase 1 orthodontic treatment, palatal expanders are designed to literally expand a patient’s palate (roof of their mouth). The work the expander does over time will widen the upper jaw to help with teeth that are crowded, overlapping, crooked, or impacted. Bite issues can also be resolved this way as well.
In short, this oral appliance creates more room in the mouth for teeth and can make it so the upper and lower teeth fit better together. Dr. Miller understands that the concept of a palatal expander may sound scary. You shouldn’t worry, however, as it should not cause pain, only slight pressure after it’s routinely adjusted.
The length of time you’re required to wear a palatal expander will depend largely on your age, how committed you are to following the rules set by Dr. Miller, and the severity of your dental issues. Because of these factors, not everyone has an expander for the same amount of time.
For instance, adult orthodontic patients can have an expander in place for much longer than those in their younger years due to fully developed bones. People of any age can have a palatal expander but the still developing jawbones of children help move things along faster. It’s not uncommon for teens and adults to wear the device for up to a year.
Like with any oral appliance, you need to keep a palatal expander clean. It is in your mouth all the time, after all. That means it’s subjected to bacteria, plaque, and food debris which can all lead to complications if not dealt with properly.
If your expander is removable, you can gently brush it with a toothbrush and mild, colorless soap. Make sure to get in between the nooks and crannies of the device before rinsing it thoroughly with lukewarm water and letting it air dry.
Another way is to use a water flosser. This should work with any type of palatal expander. Point the flosser toward the appliance and carefully use the water to dislodge food particles that may be trapped underneath.
Note: If you have a fixed palatal expander, Dr. Miller advises you to avoid certain foods or you may risk damaging the device. Those foods include hard candies, anything overly sticky or chewy like taffy, caramel, or steak, and popcorn.
When your jaw is being widened, it’s normal for your two front teeth to be affected. Fortunately, this is only a temporary side effect and the gap that is created by the palatal expander will either close on its own or your inevitable braces will do the job.
All of the above are not meant to last long and will resolve as you adjust to the palatal expander. If you’re ever concerned, feel free to let Dr. Miller and our staff know and we’ll do our best to help.
If it is determined that you need a palatal expander, our orthodontist in Grand Rapids, MI, will let you know. We don’t believe in surprises at Miller Orthodontics. We want all of our patients and their guardians to be aware of every step of the treatment process. Call our office today at (616) 942-9320 if you have questions or need to request an appointment.