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What Are Expanders?

DentalexpandersDental expanders are tools that help dental patients correct their jaws and shape their teeth properly. Although expanders are commonly used and recommended for relatively young children and teenagers, there are also some that have been developed for adults. Depending on the type, they’re either made of plastic or metal and come with an expansion screw that needs to be activated on a regular basis. There are, however, occasionally a couple of side effects that people experience when they’re expanders, but those are minor like slight pressure on teeth, extra saliva, and a slight lisp. An orthodontist can properly diagnose and fit an expander for your mouth.

General Information

There are two different types of dental expanders that are used: removable expanders and fixed expanders. The removable expanders are used for generally younger children, because their teeth and jaws are still under development. This means that the removable expanders can easily flex and correct them since they’re still relatively soft and malleable. However, older patients aren’t able to use them since their jaws are hardened. Hence, fixed expanders were developed for these patients. These fixed expanders are made of metal and are strong enough to correct jaw and skeletal issues in older kids and adults.

There are other differences as well between removable expanders and fixed expanders. First of all, removable expanders are worn 24 hours a day, but are removed for certain activities like brushing, eating, and flossing. Whereas, fixed expanders are fixed in your mouth, and cannot be taken out for the next 5 - 6 months. Apart from that, a removable expander’s expansion process needs to be carried out twice a week and takes several months to complete correct patient’s jaws. Fixed expander’s expansion process, however, is carried out daily and only takes around a month to fix the patient’s problem. During this process, a gap appearing between the two front teeth is completely normal. After the expansion is done, removable expanders are worn as retainers, while fixed expanders are left in to allow people’s jaws time to adapt to the new position.

When Are They Used?

Dental expanders, more commonly known as palatal expanders, are used generally when the patient has a cross bite. A cross bite is simply when someone’s upper and lower jaws don’t align together perfectly. Instead of the upper being directly or almost on top of the lower jaw, the teeth in the upper jaw are located “inside” the teeth in the lower jaw. This can happen to the back teeth in both the jaws or the front teeth in both the jaws. Occasionally, it even concerns both the back and the front teeth. These jaw modifying instruments are then used, because then the jaws don’t grow properly. They usually end up growing asymmetrically which leads to pain and discomfort for the patient later on in life.