What’s an expander?

When many people think about orthodontic care, they focus their attention on traditional metal braces.  Today, traditional metal braces are still an option, but there are many other options, too.  This means we can address all orthodontic issues.  We recommend that children have an initial orthodontic appointment at age 7; this is an excellent time to assess the child’s growth to date and determine whether early treatment is necessary.  Orthodontic treatment is not just for children or teenagers; many adults seek orthodontic care, as well.

With today’s technology, we can begin treatment before you have braces, and continue treatment even when you are finished with your braces.  If your teeth are too crowded, we may need to create additional space in your mouth before you get braces.  A palatal expander, “a fixed or removable device used to make the upper jaw wider,” is a great way to do that.  Expanders provide us with a very valuable way to begin your treatment without removing teeth.  Retainers, on the other hand, are worn after braces are removed; they help the teeth remain in place so the issues that required treatment will not recur.  Expanders are similar to retainers in the sense that they are not worn during the treatment with braces, but they are different in their functions.

At Owl Orthodontics, we use several different types of expanders; each one addresses a specific issue.  If you need an expander, we’ll figure out which one you need and explain it to you.  Some expanders, like the W-arch and rapid palatal expander pictured below, are glued to your teeth.

Rapid palatal expanderOthers, including the bonded rapid palatal expander pictured below, are bonded to your teeth.  Gluing and bonding are similar processes; the terminology simply depends on which type of material is used.

Bonded rapid palatal expander
Bonded rapid palatal expander

Some expanders are removable.  With the removable expander pictured below, you can decide which design you want.  We’ll provide you with instructions when you get your expander; it is essential for you to follow them so that your treatment can be effective.  For example, we’ll give you guidelines about how many hours per day you should wear your expander.  If you follow the directions, your treatment will progress according to schedule.  If not, the expansion process will take longer, which will mean that it will take longer to get your braces; this will lengthen the time period required for your overall treatment.

Removable expander
Removable expander

When the teeth are crowded, an expander can be a very useful and simple way to create additional space in the mouth.  If you need an expander, we’ll explain everything and answer any questions you may have about this phase of your orthodontic treatment.  During this phase of treatment, as at all other times, your oral hygiene is very important.  It may take some time to learn how to effectively brush and floss with your expander, but we’ll go over it with you.  Finally, please remember that visiting our office does not substitute for regular visits to your dentist; it’s important to keep up with those, too.

Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

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