I wanted to write about my son’s experience with a palatal expander, mostly because when I googled to learn about it, I found there’s not enough real information out there. Or should I say good information beyond the stories highlighting pain! agony! money! …you know the drill. Hopefully, if your child needs one, I can at least offer up some real info and peace of mind.
What is a palate expander? It’s a dental device that widens the upper jaw. It’s usually done before braces, and most effective (and painless) when used on children… mostly because the palate has not fused yet, so the widening part is a little less traumatic.
D has A LOT of issues with teeth crowding, an overbite, and a very small mouth. The perfect storm that leads to braces. Using the palate expander is the first step in making room for the rouge teeth that can’t squeeze into place.
Ironically, just as we started the process (in November of last year), D had an accident on his bike. He broke two permanent teeth (Argh!! I KNOW! It couldn’t have been the baby teeth, right?!) which made the process even more important since one of his damaged teeth split up the middle, and buried in his gums because of the crowding.
He had a few appointments leading up to the placement of the appliance, mostly for x-rays, impressions, spacers, and preparing his teeth for the device. His device was placed on December 12, 2012. He had the easy part… me, I had the job to turn the appliance each night with a key. Yes, it’s exactly as you imagine… each night my hubby held a flashlight, and I had the distinct honor to crank the device. For 30 days. Trust me, the only pain felt by anyone was my severe mommy angst wondering if I was torturing him. D had zero pain, except for an immediate sense of tightening which went away minutes later after each turn.
First couple of days? The biggest challenge was eating and talking. It takes time to get used to a metal gear in your mouth, and D was none too happy at first, but after the initial couple of days things were starting to look up. By the third day we transitioned to no-soft foods, and by the end of the week, he was eating normally again. As for his speech, they say that it comes back in time, but to be honest he had and has continued to have a really hard time pronouncing some words (mostly those with a long “e”) and… well, it did get better but not perfect. I guess this varies by individual.
The good news is the palate expander is temporary. D will be getting his removed later this month, and his “gear box” as we affectionately named it, gets replaced with a simple arched appliance until which time he moves into braces. The upside? His teeth are shiny clean because when you have this appliance , you have no choice but to brush your teeth religiously! The down side is you have to stay away from sticky foods. Luckily for D, nachos are still open-season. 🙂
The last 6 months have flown by! I already see improvement in his mouth, and since he is starting to lose baby teeth again, he now has the room for his second teeth to finally drop down. Yep, they’ll be crooked, but that’s for the braces to straighten out!
As for the damaged teeth from the accident, we will need bonding for his chipped front tooth, and (maybe) root canal or replacement for the other one. That remains to be seen for now. We will take it one day at a time.
palate expanders… not scary…
bikes… are the devil.