Imagine a device that can transform your smile, making room for perfect alignment and setting the stage for a lifetime of confident grins. That’s the magic of an orthodontic expander with Dr. Hunter. But what does life look like when you’re on this transformative journey? In this blog post, we’ll explore the expander experience, from the initial fitting to daily living and even the exciting changes you’ll see in the mirror. So, join us as we delve into the fascinating world of expanders at Hunter Family Orthodontics in The Woodlands.
An Introduction to Palatal Expansion
A palatal expander (or sometimes simply “expander”) is a device used in orthodontics to create more space in your mouth by gradually widening your upper jaw. Our team typically uses one when your upper jaw is too narrow compared to your lower jaw. We call this a “crossbite.” It can also address overcrowding issues and make room for incoming permanent teeth.
The expander is custom-made to fit over several top teeth in the back of your mouth. It’s attached to your upper molars through bonding or a band. It has two halves connected in the middle with a screw. By turning this screw a small amount each day with a special key, pressure is applied to the two halves of your jaw. The pressure causes your jaw to widen over time. This process is known as palatal expansion.
How Does The Doctor Decide Who Needs An Expander?
Dr. Hunter often recommends expanders to deal with specific dental and skeletal conditions. Bad bites, or “malocclusions,” can lead to uneven wear on the teeth and may cause difficulties with biting and chewing.
Expanders also alleviate crowding in your (or your child’s) mouth. As children grow, their mouths may not have enough space to accommodate incoming permanent teeth. By widening the upper jaw, an expander can create the necessary room, potentially reducing the need for tooth extraction in the future.
In some cases, an expander can also help improve breathing issues. A narrow or constricted palate can sometimes interfere with airflow, leading to mouth breathing, snoring, or sleep apnea. Expanding the palate can help open the nasal passages, improving respiratory function.
Applying An Expander
Getting an expander is simple and straightforward. The first step involves taking impressions or digital scans of your mouth. These create a custom-made expander that fits perfectly over the patient’s upper teeth.
Once the expander is ready, Dr. Hunter fits it in the mouth. He will attach it to the upper molars using dental bands or bonding material. Dr. Hunter will then provide detailed instructions on turning the screw in the center of the expander using a unique key. This is typically done once or twice daily to widen the jaw gradually.
While getting an expander fitted can cause initial discomfort or pressure, this usually subsides after a few days. Patients may also experience a temporary change in speech or eating habits, but these resolve as one gets used to the device. Dr. Hunter and our team give you continuous support and guidance throughout this process.
Living With An Expander
Living with an expander is a unique experience, and it’s normal to need some time to adjust. Initially, you may feel pressure or discomfort, especially after the screw turns. This sensation indicates that the expander is working to widen the upper jaw gently. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help manage this discomfort, and it typically subsides within a few days.
Eating with an expander can also be a new challenge. Soft foods are recommended in the first few days following the placement of the expander. As you adjust, you’ll be able to return to most of your regular diet, but you should avoid sticky or hard foods to prevent damage to the device.
Speech may be affected initially as your tongue adjusts to the presence of the expander. Yes, that’s right. An expander can lead to feeling tongue-tied. Reading aloud or practicing speech can help speed up this adjustment process. Some patients also experience excess saliva production or a feeling of fullness in the roof of the mouth, but these sensations decrease over time.
One of the most exciting aspects of life with an expander is witnessing the progress of your treatment. You may even notice a small gap between the front teeth – a positive sign that the expander is effectively widening the jaw.
Taking Care Of Your Expnder
Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial when you have an expander. Regular brushing and flossing should continue, but you’ll need to pay special attention to the area around the expander. A water flosser or an interdental brush (interdental means “the spaces between your teeth) can help clean the device and remove any trapped food particles.
Rinsing the mouth with water after meals is also recommended to help keep the expander clean. Some patients find fluoride mouthwash beneficial for maintaining oral health during this period.
It’s essential to avoid certain foods that could damage the expander. These include hard foods like raw carrots or apples and sticky foods like caramel or chewing gum. If the expander becomes loose or damaged, it’s important to promptly contact Dr. Hunter’s office for a repair or adjustment. Never try to fix your expander on your own.
Regular check-ups with Dr. Hunter are essential to care when you have an expander. These visits allow Dr. Hunter to monitor your progress, make necessary adjustments to the expander, and provide professional cleanings to maintain oral health.
Remember, the team at Hunter Family Orthodontics is always available to provide support, answer questions, and address any concerns you may have during your orthodontic journey.
Palatal Expanders At Hunter Family Orthodontics
Navigating life with an expander can be a unique journey. But with the proper guidance and care, it leads to a radiant, well-aligned smile. Remember, every step you take with your expander brings you closer to that perfect grin. At Hunter Family Orthodontics in The Woodlands, we support you throughout this journey, ensuring your path to a beautiful smile is smooth and comfortable. Schedule your first visit with Dr. Hunter here.