Your child will experience some changes in their orthodontic health as they continue to get older. Losing baby teeth while gaining new adult ones, along with growth and development of the jaws, are just two stages that occur between the ages of 6 and 13.

Losing baby teeth is an exciting time for a child, but it’s also a crucial moment for you to keep an eye on what happens when their adult teeth start to erupt. There’s a chance your child’s permanent teeth will not have enough room to emerge based on the size of their jaw.

When the jaw is too small to accommodate certain teeth, malocclusion (poor bite position) can arise. Tooth crowding and crossbites are two examples of orthodontic issues that should be addressed. An orthodontist at Charleston Orthodontic Specialists can help you identify whether or not your child’s teeth are developing properly, and if they aren’t, we will offer a few treatment options to choose from.

A conservative method is a jaw expander, also known as a palatal expander (or maxillary expander), which you and your orthodontist may consider before tooth extraction. Depending on your child’s unique case, an expander may be the best option for their oral health.

What Does an Expander Do?

A jaw expander serves to make room for adult teeth, decreasing the chances of any additional crowding concerns. Due to the suture that forms between the two halves of a child’s palate, it is possible to expand the maxillary jaw structure while secondarily allowing more space for your child’s teeth.

An upper jaw expander will move the natural arch of the jaw, lengthening it to allow room for permanent teeth.

Does Your Child Need an Expander?

Our orthodontist can tell you whether or not your child could benefit from an expander. With diagnostic records and a through examination of your child’s teeth and jaws, we can pinpoint any problem areas that may lead to a poor bite position later on.

To prevent malocclusion, our orthodontist may recommend an expander. Typically, the process takes one to four weeks of turning followed by 11 months of stabilization, so the expander needs to stay in for about one year. It’s important to start this type of treatment early as once a child’s palate fully integrates, rapid palatal expansion is no longer an option and many times jaw surgery is needed. Your orthodontist will also ensure the upper and lower jaw are aligning properly during treatment.

When treatment with an expander is complete, your orthodontist will examine the teeth to determine whether additional care is needed. At times, braces can provide further enhancement and improve the appearance and health of the teeth.

If you would like to learn more about jaw expanders and whether one would be beneficial to your child’s oral health, contact Charleston Orthodontic Specialists at 843-642-8100 and schedule a free appointment.