A concerned parent’s 8 years old son’s upper teeth were crowded. Also, his upper back teeth were biting inside his lower teeth. The Orthodontist explained the parent this was treatable with a “Palatal Expander.”
Orthodontics is more than just straightening teeth. As orthodontists, dentists guide the growth of the growing child and adolescent’s facial bone structure. This is what is called dentofacial orthopedics – dento – teeth; facial – face, ortho – straight; ped – child. Dentofacial orthopedics is an effective way to treat certain “bad bites” (malocclusions).
Orthodontists are dentists who have undergone an additional 2 -3 years of advanced full-time specialty education beyond the four years of dental school. In fact, the real job title is; “orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics”. Orthodontists are capable of assisting in the growth and development of the facial structures, including the jawbones. Taking advantage of an individual’s growth is a unique time in life during which the “physiodynamic” process of growth can be influenced positively, as in the case of some developing malocclusions.
This is where maxillary expansion comes in.
The upper jaw and the palate (roof of the mouth) together are known as the maxilla. The maxilla is made up of two bones that interdigitate (fuse) together in the center of the palate (this is called the midline suture). And since this fusion is not complete until after puberty, the width of the maxilla (palate) can be increased by separating the two bones.
For this process, a special appliance is used, which is known as a palatal expander. The bones are pushed apart and new bone forms at the junction. And meanwhile, additional room is created for the crowded teeth.
When is an expander indicated?
This skeletal (orthopedic) expansion of the upper jaw (maxilla) is often indicated when the upper jaw is too narrow. In some instances, a cross-bite is present– like the one described in their son’s mouth. This is where the lower back teeth are biting outside the upper teeth. In addition, some of the cases present with insufficient space for the adult (permanent) teeth to erupt into the proper alignment.
Expansion can also resolve a jaw asymmetry, as a form of early intervention. There is a shift in the bite, or subsequently, crossbite is present. An expander can also facilitate the eruption of blocked or “impacted” canines (these are the teeth with the pointy tip right underside of the nose).
There are even many studies conducted on sleep-disordered breathing and sleep apnea in children, that show how widening the palate (also the floor of the nose) can relieve breathing difficulties by opening the nasal passages.
There are numerous studies conducted at Stanford University, in the Sleep Medicine Division, which have focused on the benefits of palatal expansion in children to successfully eliminate sleep-disordered breathing and sleep apnea.
Each and every case must be carefully evaluated and a correct diagnosis must be made. Palatal expansion is not for every case. It takes a trained and skilled orthodontist to recognize when and how it can be most beneficial to a child. Expansion is a great treatment option for the right case and it sounds like your son’s malocclusion fits the bill.
Palatal expansion is a time-tested treatment and the is nothing to be scared about. For more details contact Dr. Dina Sanchez at Roland Park Orthodontics