What is a rapid maxillary expansion treatment?

Not all jaws are created equally and in a small number of people, the upper jaw is smaller than the lower jaw. This can lead to complications like deviation between the jaws and in serious cases, severe teeth misalignment. Some people even have difficulty doing everyday things such as eating and maintaining an open airway.

At Smile Team, our specialist orthodontists will assess everyone’s treatment needs, and decide the best way forward. In certain cases, it may be that maxillary expansion treatment is the next best step. As it’s not the most common treatment, we always educate those that are considering it, so they fully understand what it is and why they need it.

What’s wrong with having a smaller upper jaw?

When children are young, it’s easy to overlook issues that don’t seem like a problem, and it’s natural for parents to want to avoid unnecessary dental intervention. However, whilst a small upper jaw may seem insignificant as it’s not posing any issues now, it can lead to several more serious problems for your child further down the line.

  • The narrow upper maxilla causes the lower mandible to deviate, resulting in difficulties with speech and chewing
  • Teeth are likely to become crowded and misaligned, calling for orthodontic work
  • Tooth wear and tear can be increased by a deviated lower maxilla
  • Tissue surrounding and supporting your teeth can lead to uncomfortable damage
  • Your child is at a higher risk of suffering from temporo mandibular joint dysfunction

Overall, the aim of rapid maxillary expansion treatment is to stop those problems developing.

What does rapid maxillary expansion treatment involve?

When dentists or orthodontists say palate, they are referring to the roof of your child’s mouth. Rapid maxillary expansion treatment involves fitting a palatal expander to the roof of the mouth. This is to expand the upper jaw by exerting pressure on either side of your jaw.

A crucial step in your child wearing their palatal expander is turning it on a regular basis. After it is fitted your orthodontic team will provide you with clear instructions on what to do at home. All palatal expanders come with a key that you or your child must turn. Turning your place can vary between cases, it may be once a day, or every second day, to once a week or even once a month. After a designated amount of turns, your orthodontist will assess the progress, and inform you on next steps.

Whilst not always pleasant, a side effect of turning the expander can be discomfort or pressure. Your child may report feeling pressure at the top of the nose and round the eyes. We want your child to be as comfortable as possible, so our orthodontic team always discuss pain relief options with you.

Try not to be concerned if a small gap begins to appear between your child’s front teeth. As their maxillary expansion treatment goes on, as it’s completely normal. Once your treatment is finished, the orthodontists here at Smile Team will discuss options to rectify any tooth shifting, such as Invisalign or braces.

Why use a palatal expander during childhood?

Your upper jawbone is made of two bones connected by a single suture in the middle, which doesn’t close until your early teenage years. Using a palatal expander at a young age ensures the area is still pliable enough to make significant changes. It is possible to undergo treatment as an adult, but far easier as a child.

Do you need to make any lifestyle adjustments while wearing a palatal expander?

Meal times can remain normal, although we advise being cautious, and eliminating the following if possible:

  • Sugary drinks and snacks
  • Sticky, chewy, or hard sweets
  • You can eat hard and chewy foods such as vegetables, but cut them up or soften them a little

You need to maintain regular appointments

At Smile Team, we think it’s really important that our patients visit us every two to eight weeks whilst wearing their expander. For treatment to be effective, the correct amount of key turns needs to be made. Regular appointments ensure that you’re on track, and means we can check in to see if any adjustments need to be made. Appointment frequency is judged on a case-by-case basis, but most of the time, they will be every two to eight weeks.

In addition to maintaining your appointments with us, make sure you see your regular dentist. They’ll help you take good care of other elements of your oral health, which supports the work we are doing with you.

If you want to learn more about maxillary expansion treatment, we’re more than happy to answer your questions. Call us on 1800 SMILETEAM to talk with a member of our team.