How Does a Jaw Expander Work?

A child's primary teeth typically start falling out around the age of six. By the time the child reaches 12 to 13, all of their baby teeth will have been replaced by adult teeth. For most children this is a fairly simple and uneventful process; however for some, the jaw is too small to accommodate all the new teeth. When this happens, a jaw expander may be used to correct the situation.

In the past, the most common solution was extraction in order to make more room for the remaining adult teeth. This could prevent crowding and misalignment which usually results when the jaw is too small. A more modern solution is to use a jaw expander, which solves the problem without requiring the extraction of any teeth.

Expanders for the Upper and Lower Jaw

Jaw expanders work by stretching the cartilage and bone of the palate. This has the effect of expanding the arch of the jaw, and providing more room for the teeth. It's best done early, before a child reaches the teen years.

Expanders for the upper and lower jaw work slightly differently, because the structure of the upper and lower jaw is different. On the upper jaw, the tissue is actually expanded so that the jaw becomes slightly longer; this is possible because the upper jaw has a structural feature called the midpalatal suture, which provides room for the expansion to occur. With the lower jaw, an expander doesn't truly expand the bone and cartilage, instead it just moves the teeth to improve the bite.

A jaw expander is uncomfortable to wear at first. Wearing an expander can put pressure on the teeth and the roof of the mouth, but this reduces over time. Many children find it a bit hard to eat a normal diet at first—it's best to stick to soft foods initially—but this improves over time too.

Wearing a jaw expander can also make oral hygiene tricky, so regular dental visits are very important to make sure that the teeth aren't more vulnerable to decay.

Contact Us for More Information about Jaw Expanders

Interested in learning more about jaw expanders? Contact the Pacific View Dental Group in Ventura. Our staff includes experts in both pediatric dentistry and orthodontics, to make sure your child gets the expert dental care they need to start them off on a lifetime of good oral health.


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