If your child has a narrow palate, their tooth function and oral health can become impacted in the future. To prevent these concerns from evolving into a major problem, Gary Chapman, DDS, places expanders at ChapmanSmiles Orthodontics in Happy Valley, Oregon. Expanders help improve breathing problems in adults and children by opening their airways. To learn more, call or schedule an appointment online today.

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What are expanders?

Expanders are devices that Dr. Chapman places under the palate of the upper jaw to widen it. The expander has metal bands that wrap around your surrounding molars to gently push your jaw outward. In the center of the expander is a small screw that, when turned, exerts gentle pressure on the upper jaw.

In most cases, orthodontists recommend expanders for children because the bones in their palate have yet to fuse together. Children’s jaws are still growing so they’re more malleable than adult jaws, which shortens the length of time they need expanders.

However, expanders are not exclusive to children. Adults often need expanders to prepare for orthodontic treatments like clear aligners or braces.

What orthodontic issues can expanders correct?

Expanders are considered an early intervention for potentially serious orthodontic issues, such as:

  • Crowded teeth
  • Crossbite
  • Underbite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Narrow smile

If your child has any of the above orthodontic concerns, choosing an expander now can shorten the length of time they’ll need to wear braces in the future.

How can expanders improve breathing problems?

If you or your child has difficulty breathing at night, an overly narrow jaw may be the culprit. Expanders commonly treat sleep-disordered breathing in children.

A high arch and narrow palate can restrict nasal breathing, particularly when combined with allergies, swollen tonsils, or tonsil adenoids.

When your child can’t breathe comfortably through their nose, they naturally start to mouth breathe. Mouth breathing at night can cause snoring, sleep disruptions, and throat irritation, leading to poor sleep quality. Your child may wake up fatigued and irritated.

When Dr. Chapman places an expander, the halves of the palate begin to widen. Over time, new bone takes the place of this bone to fill in the gap. This opens up the nasal airways, allowing your child to breathe through their nose more easily.

How long is the treatment for expanders?

Most patients show enough palate widening to discontinue expander treatment after about nine months. At this time, the palate should be wide enough to treat sleep-disordered breathing or prepare for further orthodontic treatment in the future.

If you or your child chooses expander treatment, avoid eating sticky or hard candies, which can become lodged behind the device.

To learn more about expanders, call ChapmanSmiles Orthodontics or schedule an appointment online today.