By Dr. John White, Braces by White

Some dentists and orthodontists pull teeth to make room in a child’s crowded mouth, but I have long preferred the use of palatal expanders as a less invasive method.

Palatal expanders widen the upper arch, creating more room for teeth to align properly and giving the patient a better bite.

While growing, a child’s palate widens partially by tongue pressure (a measure of the strength of the tongue). We simply increase that pressure with palatal expanders which do the job nature intended (but didn’t accomplish) in a short time period.

Expanders are one of the most common orthodontic appliances used in young children, partly because they cause minimal discomfort. Custom fabricated for each child, the palatal expander widens the upper jaw by putting gentle pressure on the upper molars each time an adjustment is made. The appliance is fitted to one or two teeth on each side of the upper jaw and bonded into place. These are typically much smaller than removable type expanders—and more predictable.

At home, parents activate it once a day with a simple key. Typically, children wear the expander for up to six months.

I recommend that patients get a palatal expander at a young age to make room for permanent teeth before they come. Instead of fixing issues after the fact, we try to prevent problems. Plus, it is easier to widen the upper arch before puberty when the bones of a child’s upper jaw begin to fuse together.