Narrowness of the upper jaw is a common feature of orthodontic disharmony. Generally the lower jaw develops to it’s genetically determined width. The upper jaw (maxilla) width is often modified by environmental factors including prolonged pacifier use, thumb or finger sucking habits, tongue function, and obligatory mouth breathing secondary to nasopharyngeal airway restriction from enlarged adenoids or tonsils. In cases of maxillary narrowness, the lower jaw may deviate to one side (unilateral posterior cross-bite) or the upper posterior teeth may fit inside the lower teeth in the closed position (bilateral posterior cross-bite).
Palatal expansion makes it possible for the teeth and jaws to fit together in harmony. The upper jaw shape is most effectively modified in younger children when the mid-palatal suture is still actively growing. At CPDA we favor palatal expansion as the upper permanent lateral incisors are emerging, most commonly at age eight years. The best results are achieved using a palate expansion appliance fastened to the upper posterior teeth. Parents activate the expander at home on a schedule which widens the upper jaw comfortably over a period of a few weeks.
Later in this Phase One treatment the upper front teeth are aligned with limited short term braces. The treatment may be of eight to twelve months duration and is usually followed up with use of a removable night time retainer. Palatal expansion may the only intervention required or may be preliminary to addressing other aspects of a child’s orthodontic care.
Feel free to contact us at our Cambridge pediatric dental office to find out whether a palatal expander is right for your child or to schedule a consultation with one of our orthodontists.