A rapid palatal expander (RPE) is an orthodontic appliance used to create more space in the palate or roof of the mouth. Of course, not every child needs a palate expander. To see if your child is a candidate for a rapid palatal expander or how to maintain optimal oral health while wearing one, AbraDental has put together the following information.
Determining If Your Child Needs a Rapid Palatal Expander
There are a few reasons why a rapid palatal expander may be recommended for your child. The main reason is to fix a crossbite. This occurs when the top teeth bite inside the bottom teeth instead of in front of them. A crossbite may cause several problems, such as difficulty chewing and speaking, as well as an increased risk of cavities and gum disease. Additionally, rapid palatal expanders are often used to make room for crowded teeth, which may assist your child in avoiding more invasive procedures, such as extractions.
The ideal age for your child to get an RPE is between seven and eight. During this time, your child’s jawbones are still forming. Palate expanders are most effective, while the bones are still malleable. However, palate expanders can be used on older children as well. If your child has issues with their bite or crowding, talk to their dentist or orthodontist about whether a palate expander is right for them.
The Benefits of a Rapid Palate Expander
Using a rapid palatal expander has several benefits when necessary. First, it can make the palate wider, improving the fit of crowded teeth and making room for permanent teeth to erupt into place. Additionally, it can help your child’s top set of teeth come down evenly over the bottom set, creating a more balanced bite. Lastly, a palate expander may make breathing easier for your child. Children with a constricted palate often breathe through their mouths because they cannot get enough air through their noses. A palate expander can help to correct this.
How Does a Rapid Palatal Expander Work?
A rapid palate expander is a device that is placed on the roof of your child’s mouth. It consists of two halves connected in the middle by a screw. As the screw is turned, the two halves of the expander gradually begin to move apart. This action puts gentle pressure on the teeth and may cause a tingling sensation under the eyes and around the bridge of the nose. Expanding the palate generally takes one to three weeks, but the expander will remain in place for several months to ensure the palate keeps its new shape. A gap may form between your child’s two front teeth while the palate expands. This is normal and often closes on its own once the expander is removed.
How to Activate Your Child’s Rapid Palatal Expander
Your child’s orthodontist will give you specific instructions on activating their palatal expander. Activating the expander generally involves turning the screw located in the middle of the device. This is done by using a key that is provided by the orthodontist. The key fits inside a small hole in the front of the expander and is turned towards the back of the mouth. If done correctly, a small click will be heard, and another hole will be visible for the next turn. The orthodontist will determine the number of turns and the frequency with which they are made.
Typically a rapid palatal expander is only activated once per day. Therefore, it is best to turn the expander at night before bedtime. This will help your child sleep through discomfort and allow the palate expander to work while your child is asleep. If your child misses a night or two of turning the expander, do not try to make up for it by turning it more the next night. This could cause your child discomfort and may even damage their palate.
Caring for Your Child’s Rapid Palatal Expander
Once your child’s palatal expander is in place, it is essential to understand how to care for it properly. The palate expander must be kept clean to avoid bacteria buildup and decay. Your child should brush their expander along with their teeth at least twice a day. It is also a good idea to use a mouth rinse to keep the palate expander clean.
In addition to brushing and rinsing, the expander should be checked daily for any food or plaque buildup. A water flosser may help remove any food particles stuck in the palate expander. If your child is experiencing excessive pain or discomfort, contact your orthodontist for assistance. The expander may need to be adjusted. Furthermore, visit your orthodontist immediately if the palate expander is loose or damaged. Do not try to fix the expander yourself.
Maintain a Healthy Smile With AbraDental
At AbraDental, we are committed to providing outstanding dental and orthodontic care for the whole family. If you think your child might benefit from a rapid palate expander, or if you have any other questions about your family’s oral health, we would be happy to help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and start on the path to a lifetime of healthy smiles.