When Upper Jaw Expansion Benefits Your Child

Upper jaw expansion is a form of orthodontic treatment that is used in specific cases. By widening the circumference of the palate, the perimeter of the dental arch increases to create more space for teeth growth.

Reasons for Treatment

Palatal or maxillary expanders, according to Dr. Martin Fine, do three things that make expanding the upper jaw particularly helpful during childhood:

  • Corrects a crossbite. The upper teeth should close around the outside of the lower teeth. In a patient with a narrow palate, it can be the other way around, with the upper teeth biting inside the lower teeth. This results in asymmetrical growth of the lower jaw, which can cause facial asymmetry, if it isn't corrected in time.
  • Eliminates or reduces overcrowding, by making space for all your child's upper teeth to erupt in their correct positions.
  • Improves breathing ability. A narrow or deep upper jaw makes it difficult for a child to breathe through his nose. This results in continuous mouth-breathing, which causes the unhealthy inhalation of unfiltered bacteria, dry mouth and potential halitosis.

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.

Patient Age

Upper jaw expansion is most successful when it's performed in children under the age of 16, according to Dr. M.Z. Rizkallah. Crossbite expansion should ideally be treated as young as possible, but no earlier than the age of five. Adults with crossbites may only need dental expansion, not palatal expansion. If an adult's upper jaw needs to be expanded, orthodontists may recommend jaw surgery as the primary treatment for this issue.

Rapid Palatal Expander

The method used to expand the upper jaw depends on the age of the patient and the reason for the treatment. One solution is a fixed appliance such as the rapid palatal expander (RPE), which is attached to the upper molars either by bonding or the use of cemented bands. This common item, explains Spielberg Orthodontics, comes with a special key used to widen the space by turning a screw in the center of the appliance at certain points in time. This places outward pressure on the two halves of your child's upper jaw, which causes extra bone to grow between them. By making minute adjustments on a daily basis, you gradually increase the width of the jaw.

Surgical Assistance

Surgically assisted rapid palatal expansion (SARPE) is a combination of orthodontic treatment and surgery, used in cases where the expansion needed is more than an appliance can logically achieve by itself. In these situations, a custom appliance is made before surgery. The upper jaw is intentionally fractured during surgery by making multiple cuts in the bone, according to the office of Marcos Dias, DDS, "separating" the upper jaw into movable segments. This allows the bone to grow between them when the appliance is activated after surgery.

Removable Expanders

Removable expanders resemble a partial denture, but are typically made of chrome. These are typically used in cases where the degree of expansion needed is minimal, and are more likely to be recommended for adults than children because they more easily comply with the treatment. Depending on the age of the patient, suggests Dr. James Ferguson Jr., DDS, an orthodontic retainer might be fitted to maintain the space after treatment until all the permanent teeth have erupted.T

Care

Dental hygiene is important during upper jaw expansion. While kids wear the palatal expander, it's necessary to clean it carefully each time they brush their teeth with a fluoride toothpaste. Kids and young adolescents can also rinse with anti-bacterial products such as Colgate® Phos-Flur® Rinse to provide the teeth with the strength of fluoride to make them stronger and prevent decay from occurring.

Pros and Cons

Upper jaw expansion produces a correct bite, easier breathing and ultimately straighter teeth. This can cost up to $3,000, according to Seattle's Child, depending on the degree of correction needed and whether extractions are required. However, the process causes some minor discomfort during expansion, although this is often well worth it given the potential discomfort from an inaccurate bite later in life.

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