If your child’s jaw isn’t sufficiently broad to let new teeth come in without them butting up into each other, they could have a narrow palate. If your child’s adult teeth are trying to come in but are ending up crowded and ill-adjusted, you may be considering braces. However, if there’s nowhere for teeth to go, you’ll need to make room for them first.

At ChapmanSmiles Orthodontics in Happy Valley, Clackamas, Oregon, orthodontist Dr. Gary Chapman does a full examination to see if your child needs expanders before braces can be put in place to bring teeth into proper alignment.

What expanders do to fix narrow palate issues

Expanders are a simple device affixed to the molars, but instead of moving individual teeth like braces do, they exert gentle pressure on the bones of the jaw itself. Pressure is increased slowly over time, so the growing bone in the jaw “stretches” (meaning hundreds of very tiny fractures appear, and are filled with new bone produced by your body).

The palate expander slowly but surely widens the upper jaw, which provides the following benefits:

  • The temporomandibular joints have more room to move unimpeded, reducing the likelihood of clicking, popping, or locking
  • The jaws are able to align better, for a more even bite that reduces jaw strain, makes eating easier, and reduces wear-and-tear on teeth
  • The teeth have more room to come into the spaces allotted for them, with less likelihood of crowding or overlapping

If your child is already experiencing issues due to a narrow palate, widening the jaw can help correct crossbite and underbite, address crowded or misaligned teeth, and even help with breathing issues due to a narrow palate interfering with the sinuses. 

Why you should get expanders before braces

If you’re already aware that your child needs braces, but they have an extremely narrow jaw, you should talk to your orthodontist about expanders before you start the braces process. With a jaw that’s too narrow, braces or clear aligners just won’t work that well, as the misaligned teeth have no space to be shifted into for an aesthetically pleasing and functional bite.

Starting out with expanders can help prepare your child’s teeth and jaw for the step of getting braces or clear aligners, or undergoing more extensive orthodontic work like drawing out a tooth trapped below the gumline. Using expanders can also reduce the amount of time spent in braces, since teeth will be able to move more easily through the expanded jawbone.

Considering an expander before you commit to putting your child into braces? Dr. Chapman can explain the process in detail to you and review your treatment options. To schedule a consultation, call 503-336-1883, or request an appointment online

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