Expanders

Expanders Specialist
If your child’s permanent teeth are coming in crowded, he or she might need an expander. Dr. Anishka Frankenberry, of Stone Ridge Orthodontics, serves patients in the northern Virginia region and surrounding suburban areas, such as Stone Ridge, Herndon, and Reston. She can examine your child’s dental progress and recommend a treatment plan or appliance that help his permanent teeth come in normally.

Expanders Q & A

by Anishka Frankenberry, DDS

What is an expander and how does it work?

A palatal expander is an appliance that makes it easier for your teeth to come in appropriately. The expander fits across the roof of the mouth and is affixed to the child’s molars where it applies gentle pressure for the course of treatment. Over several months, the expander gently expands the upper jaw, which allows permanent teeth to come in without being crowded or misaligned.

The alternative to ensuring that your child’s teeth aren’t crowded is to extract a tooth, but an expander can provide the same results without removing any teeth. When the correct expansion has been attained, the expander remains in place for several more months before Dr. Frankenberry removes it.

Is widening the jaw painful?

There might be some jaw discomfort with the installation of the expander, but that will subside once the patient gets accustomed to the appliance. Expanders are usually recommended for teenagers.

Can you eat while wearing an expander?

A patient may need a few diet modifications as they get used to the appliance. Soft foods, such as soup, pudding or mashed potatoes may be easier to chew when the expander is new. Avoid gummy or sticky foods that may stick to the appliance or make it shift while chewing.

Do I need to get any special toothbrush or cleaner for an expander?
To fight tooth decay, your child can brush twice daily using a regular toothbrush. It’s a good idea to floss too, to help prevent gum problems like gingivitis. Dr. Frankenberry may recommend a water jet or a manual syringe to rinse food particles from under the expander.

How do I adjust an expander?

Here are four simple steps to adjust the device to the desired expansion:

  1. In a well-lit area, tip the patient’s head back.
  2. Place the key in the hole while it’s firmly in place.
  3. Push the key toward the back of the mouth. You will notice the fender will rotate and the new hole will appear. The rotation stops when the key meets the back of the expander.
  4. Press back and down toward the tongue to remove the key. The next hole for insertion of the key should now be visible.
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