Rapid Palatal Expander
Attached to the upper molars through bonding or by cemented bands, the Rapid Palatal Expander is an orthodontic device used to create a wider space in the upper jaw. It is typically used when the upper jaw is too narrow for the lower jaw or when the upper teeth are crowded or blocked out of the dental arch.
When patients are still growing, their connective tissue between the left and right halves of their upper jaw is very responsive to expansion. By simply activating the expander through turning a screw in the center of the palatal expander, with a special key we provide, gradual outward pressure is placed on the left and right halves of the upper jaw. This pressure causes an increased amount of bone to grow between the right and left halves of the jaw, ultimately resulting in an increased width.
What to Expect
There can be some soreness or a feeling of pressure for a few minutes after the key is turned, but activating an expander actually causes less discomfort than having braces tightened. Your child may find that speaking and eating feels different at first as the tongue adjusts to the presence of the appliance. It is also completely normal to see a gap develop between the front teeth. This shows that the expander is having the desired effect. When all is said and done, your child’s permanent teeth will be beautifully aligned with neither too much nor too little space between them.
Sometimes, braces alone aren’t enough to move teeth into a better position, or to correct trouble with the bite or remedy problems in the growth of the jaws. In those situations, your orthodontist may recommend the use of special appliances. Orthodontic headgear is the general name for an appliance, worn partly outside the mouth, which creates just enough force to move the teeth properly and guide the growth of the face and jaws.
There are several different types of orthodontic headgear, each designed to work best in a specific situation. We will design a treatment program to address your individual needs, and select the most appropriate type of headgear; we will also instruct you on its use and care. It’s important for you to follow instructions carefully so that, working together, we can achieve the best results from your treatment.
Making Headgear Work Depends on You
Whichever type of headgear you’re wearing, there are some important things you should know. Probably the most essential one is this: In order for it to be effective, you must carefully follow instructions about wearing your headgear — that means putting it on each day for the time specified. If you wear headgear at night and you miss one night, you must make up the time the following day — otherwise, everything you’ve accomplished in the previous seven days of wear could be wiped out!
It’s normal to feel some discomfort as you get used to wearing orthodontic headgear. Fortunately, if you wear it faithfully, the discomfort generally goes away in a few days. Your orthodontist may recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever like Ibuprofen, and/or a soft diet, to help you adjust.
From time to time you may also experience some soreness when chewing, or even a little looseness in the first molars. This is normal, and it shows the appliance is working. However, if you have unusual pain, notice that the anchor band on your first molar (the one the headgear attaches to) has come loose, or find that the headgear suddenly seems not to fit correctly, it could signal a problem. In that case, contact us right away.
Maintain Your Headgear — And Your Oral Health
To keep your orthodontic headgear working as it should — and to maintain your overall oral health — it’s important that you follow our instructions about care and cleaning. It’s also important that you learn to put headgear on and take it off properly and safely. Remember to bring it with you every time you have an appointment at our office — but leave it behind when you’re playing sports, or even horsing around in the living room!
Wearing orthodontic headgear may seem like a big adjustment — and nobody would deny that it takes some getting used to. But remember that you’re part of a team, which includes our office, your general dentist… and you! When everyone works together, it’s possible to achieve your goal: a beautiful smile that you’ll have for your whole lifetime.
Thumb and Finger Appliances
Is there any image that illustrates the comforts of babyhood better than a sleepy infant sucking its thumb? Ultrasound pictures have shown, to the joy of many prospective parents, that this behavior can even occur in the womb. The thumb or finger-sucking habit seems to relax and comfort toddlers too, and it’s perfectly natural. But as a child grows, there comes a point where this habit isn’t just socially awkward — it may also be harmful to his or her oral health.
Controlling Thumb or Finger Sucking
Like many potentially harmful behavior patterns, thumb sucking can be a difficult habit to break. Through the years, parents have tried a variety of home remedies, such as having the child wear gloves, coating the digits with a bitter-tasting substance — and even reasoning with their toddlers. Sometimes it works — but in other cases, the allure of thumb sucking proves very difficult to control.
If your child has a thumb or finger sucking habit that has persisted past the age of three, and you’ve been unable to tame it, then it may be time for you to visit our office. We will consider treating your child with a “habit appliance” such as a fixed palatal crib or a removable device. This crib isn’t for sleeping — it’s a small metal appliance worn inside the mouth, attached to the upper teeth.
Getting and Using a Habit Appliance
If your child could benefit from a habit appliance, the first step is to get a thorough examination, which may include taking X-rays, photographs and dental impressions. If it’s recommended, a crib will then be custom-fabricated to fit your child’s mouth, and placed at a subsequent appointment. Afterwards, your child will be periodically monitored until the appliance is removed — typically, a period of months.
A Word About Tongue Thrusting
Like thumb sucking, tongue thrusting is a normal behavioral pattern in young children. It’s actually part of the natural infantile swallowing pattern, which will normally change on its own — by the age of six, in most children. If the pattern doesn’t change, however, it can lead to problems similar to those caused by thumb sucking: namely, problems with tooth alignment and skeletal development. Fortunately, this problem can be successfully treated with a habit appliance that’s very similar to a fixed palatal crib.