Does My Child Need an Expander?

Your Preliminary Guide to Expanders and Orthodontics

Expanders are an important part of orthodontic treatment for many children

  1. The most common indication for expansion is a posterior crossbite. A posterior crossbite occurs when the top back teeth (molars and premolars) bite down inside the bottom back teeth.
  2. Another common indication for expansion is when the teeth are very crowded and your orthodontist needs to create space for the permanent teeth. In particular, if the upper canines are not erupting in the proper position, expansion is sometimes indicated to attempt to create more space for their eruption.
  3. In recent years, an increasing number of research studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of expansion in improving the airway in patients with restricted breathing.

Is expansion for the top or bottom teeth?

Expansion is most commonly performed in the upper arch, although many orthodontists will complement the upper expansion with an expander in the lower arch if indicated.

A Wide Variety of Expanders

There are various types of expanders. Expanders are most commonly cemented on the molars, although they’re sometimes removable. In some cases, the patient, parent or someone else will be required to use a ‘key’ to turn the expander based on the doctor’s instructions. Other expanders can be activated by the orthodontist before being cemented in place and will gradually expand over the course of several weeks to months without turning.

Orthodontics Expander

“For parents researching orthodontics, keep in mind that the best time to bring your child in for a consultation is around age 7. “

What’s the best time for expansion?

Expansion is easiest and most effective before the palatal bones have fully fused. This is typically between the ages of 7 and 15. In some cases, expansion will be performed after that point, but in adults this often requires surgically assisted or mini-implant assisted expansion because palatal growth is already complete. If you fall into that category, talk to your orthodontist for more details or check back for a future blog post on the topic!

Overall, expansion is a great tool in orthodontics to help broaden the smile, create space for all of the adult teeth, and perhaps even improve the airway. Expansion is only indicated in select cases since many patients already have the ideal arch width. For parents out there researching orthodontics for their children, keep in mind that the best time to bring your child in for an initial orthodontic consultation is around the age of 7.

Learn more in your free consultation with Dr. McComb.

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