What’s the Role of the Expander in Orthodontic Treatment?
Often, patients ask: “What is an expander? Why do I need one? What does it do?”
I’ll highlight what they are, how they work, reasons people need them, what happens when they don’t opt for expansion, and the overall results of expansion.
What is an Expander?
The expansion device has small bands or rings that fit around the six-year molar teeth, fitting the upper roof of the mouth.
How does an Expander Work?
Usually Mom or Dad will help the actual expansion process, which they learn about at the orthodontic office. Here’s how it works: There’s a little hole in the expander and it comes with a key. You put the expansion key in the hole, pull backwards toward the throat, and it turns the expander once. It then turns a quarter-of-a-millimeter–enough to begin the expansion process. And, fortunately, you can’t turn it more than it’s supposed to. Most people don’t experience pain, but feel a bit of pressure. You do this once a day, depending on how much expansion’s needed. It could take three to four weeks or six to seven weeks to get the jaw where it needs to be.
Reasons People may Need Expanders
1) They have a thumb-sucking habit. This is probably the most common reason people need expanders. If your child sucks his thumb, he places the thumb behind his/her teeth.
2) They were born with narrow jaws. For whatever reason, the jaw didn’t develop the width needed.d the front teeth as he’s falling asleep or watching a movie. That constant sucking constricts the upper jaw, making it narrower than what’s ideal. This can cause airway problems or the teeth to not fit together nicely. When these issues arise, it’s best to get that upper jaw back to where it needs to be with an expander.
3) They have allergies and other sinus problems. You wouldn’t think those would cause a narrow upper palette, but people with allergies and sinus issues tend to breath more through their mouth, especially when sleeping. They’ll be slack-jawed, sleeping with their mouth open. We call these people “mouth breathers.” Now when this happens, their cheeks are taut, creating a bit of suction and pressure on the upper teeth. Over the years, just a bit of pressure is enough to collapse the upper jaw due to the tautness in the cheeks.
4) Their teeth don’t fit together correctly. Teeth are anatomically built to fit together nicely and protect each other. When the upper jaw is a little narrow and the teeth don’t fit together well, it can damage the teeth.
What if orthodontists don’t expand the jaws?
When the upper jaw’s narrower than the lower jaw, the teeth won’t fit together ideally. As a result, you’ll shift your lower jaw to close your teeth and to bite. Over the years, this shifting of the lower jaw can actually cause it to grow in the wrong direction. So, if you’re constantly shifting to the right to bite and chew, you can get a little more growth towards the right causing a facial or skeletal deformity.
Expanders deliver nice results
Think Julia Roberts. People always talk about her nice broad smile. With expanders, not only do you get your teeth in a good position, protect them and the jaw joints, and open up your airway space, but you get a smile like Julia Roberts.
If you have always admired Julia Robert’s smile and an oral ailment is hindering your path to it, then contact Beecroft Orthodontics today to remove any obstacles in your path to a Julia Roberts like smile.
Beecroft Orthodontics, 10472 Georgetown Dr. Fredericksburg, Virginia
A Complete Guide to Orthodontic Expanders