21 answers

Palate Expander and Braces

My son will be 8 in March. The orthodontist wants to put a palate expander in now and is already talking braces around 11/12 years old. I'm not sure how they can tell now that he'll need them in 4 years. His teeth are not crocked or sticking out. The problem now is that he has a big cross bite. My question is does he need the palate expander now or can it wait until he's 11 (or closer to needing the braces) so he can go straight from the expander to the braces? The cross bite is not bothering him. If we do the expander now there's a chance he'll need a retainer until the braces go in. That's 5+ years with something in this mouth. Of course this is all assuming he'll actually need braces. I'd love to hear the experiences of moms whose kids have had a palate expander. At what age they got it...Did they need a retainer after...Is it necessary now? Thank you for sharing your comments and experiences.

2 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I opted for the braces and took my son to Frost Orthodontics. We've been very happy with the orthodontist. I'm sure his younger brother will be seeing Dr. Frost some day too. :-) I even had a consult for braces but for me it's more cosmetic than anything and I can't justify the expense at this point. Thanks for all your suggestions/comments.

Featured Answers

My son went through the same thing. When he started to lose his baby teeth we began regular dentist visits. They did a panoramic xray on his teeth. While his baby teeth were perfectly straight, the xray showed all these adult teeth that were forming and it looked like an absolute traffic jam. There was no room for them to come down. We did the expander starting in 3rd grade. At that age the palate has not hardened and the bones at the roof of the mouth have not knit. They can shape the bones as they grow. It's easier to expand now than it will be at any other time and it's a lot less painful. My son is 12 now and finishing up 2 yrs of braces. He will be finished with them before 6th grade is through. He'll be free from them for middle and high school and his teeth and bite will be perfect.
When I had braces in the 70's (back before expanders were invented) I had to have 8 adult teeth pulled so there was room in my mouth for the rest. I had braces from grade 5 through 11 and braces for 7 years is misery.
Orthodontists start younger than they use to, but they finish up much more quickly.

1 mom found this helpful

I have no experience here and am not reading the replies. But a second opinion is always a good idea. And if you didn't feel you could ask these questions of the ortho, perhaps finding one you can communicate with, even if he or she tells you the same thing. As you said, that's a lot of time and money to be in relationship with a medical professional. You want to be comfortable in all the steps of the process.

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At 11 he will be too old for a palate expander. I'm surprised the orthodontist didn't explain to you that you can't expand the soft palate after a certain age. It is only adjustable when they are young.

My daughter had a palate expander at age 8. Then braces to correct the upper teeth being spread out at age 9. Then we waited until all her baby teeth fell out and she had braces after that for a little over a year. She was all done with braces the day before she went to high school.

Her dad, on the other hand, didn't have the option of a palate expander back in the day, and he had to have 8 permanent teeth pulled! I'm glad we could do the expander so all her teeth could fit.

She is 22 and still wears her retainer. She has beautiful teeth and a beautiful smile and I'm glad we did what we did for her. My opinion is to take care of their teeth for them while you can. When they're older they'll thank you for it.

2 moms found this helpful

I am neither a dentist or orthodontist, but I will share with you what our much trusted family dentist told me just last week, while we were discussing the need (or not) (and when) of our children needing braces. My kids are 12 and 9 years old.

He is quite positive that both my kids will need braces due to pretty big overbites. My son's teeth are fine other than the overbite (no crooked teeth, no crowding, etc). My daughter (the 9 yr old) has teeth that are not coming in quite properly. For ex, her first two permanent teeth came in BEHIND the baby ones... like shark teeth. She also has a tooth that came in sideways (but she is able to clean around it so the dentist says that's not a problem... if it were really tight and she weren't able to clean it, he would want to address it right away). But, here is the interesting part:

When I pressed him about whether she would need orthodontic work right away (due to the crooked tooth especially, even though she has a REALLY bad overbite that I know will require work eventually) he gave me the names of several orthoditists that they refer clients to. Told me I should probably go ahead and call her for a consult and see what they say. Probably it can wait, but better to check and be safe rather than sorry. That the orthodontist he refers his clients to is a regular orthodontist, NOT a "pediatric" orthodontist... Why? Well, b/c a pediatric one "loses" their patients around age 12. So they are more 'aggressive' with treatment. He said "I bet she (meaning my daughter) has a few classmates with braces already" (and my daughter is nodding her head yes to this)... well, their teeth may need further treatment as they grow and the rest of their permanent teeth come in. But the pediatric dentists will have exhausted all the insurance benefits before they are done (grown and matured and need a 2nd round of treatment/work done). By sending us to a "regular" ortho instead of pediatric, that conflict of interest for the doctor is not there! And our child will get the most appropriate treatment at the optimal time (for her mouth AND our pocketbook).
Check your dental insurance coverage. I bet you are limited to how much they pay out. Consider a 2nd opinion from a non-pediatric ortho.

We don't even use a pediatric dentist, and he is AWESOME. We've been going there for over 12 years and our kids have grown up going there. They LOVE him. He doesn't have all the bells and whistles (TV's in all the treatment rooms,etc) but his staff is excellent with the kids and I have never had ANY complaints or fear from my kids.

2 moms found this helpful

My son went through the same thing. When he started to lose his baby teeth we began regular dentist visits. They did a panoramic xray on his teeth. While his baby teeth were perfectly straight, the xray showed all these adult teeth that were forming and it looked like an absolute traffic jam. There was no room for them to come down. We did the expander starting in 3rd grade. At that age the palate has not hardened and the bones at the roof of the mouth have not knit. They can shape the bones as they grow. It's easier to expand now than it will be at any other time and it's a lot less painful. My son is 12 now and finishing up 2 yrs of braces. He will be finished with them before 6th grade is through. He'll be free from them for middle and high school and his teeth and bite will be perfect.
When I had braces in the 70's (back before expanders were invented) I had to have 8 adult teeth pulled so there was room in my mouth for the rest. I had braces from grade 5 through 11 and braces for 7 years is misery.
Orthodontists start younger than they use to, but they finish up much more quickly.

1 mom found this helpful

early intervention usually works best!

1 mom found this helpful

My son was 8 when he got the palate expander - it helps to have it NOW rather than later - while his bones are still growing. He had his braces on for 18 months. What a HUGE difference!!!

He MAY have to have braces a little later but overall, he's VERY happy and so am I!!

he wears "invisible" retainers every night to bed and nothing during the day. Getting his teeth fixed has made a HUGE difference in his self-confidence (even though he's a black belt in Tae Kwon Do!)

My daughter had to have the palate expander. (She had alot of issues dentist wise - anxiety and other... so things were prolonged quite a while.)

They use those for mouths that have cross bites because if they put the braces on .... when the child bites down they are more likely to break the braces off. Since the teeth are not meeting together the way they should.

As for a retainer, they usually leave the expander on until they are ready to put the braces on. The retainer is usually what they give them after the braces come off. (this is the stage my daughter is at currently)

I have no experience here and am not reading the replies. But a second opinion is always a good idea. And if you didn't feel you could ask these questions of the ortho, perhaps finding one you can communicate with, even if he or she tells you the same thing. As you said, that's a lot of time and money to be in relationship with a medical professional. You want to be comfortable in all the steps of the process.

My son is 10 and has the expander in now. It was a little painful when we would have to crank it several days in a row but nothing a little motrin didn't cure. I wish this had been an option for me when I was his age. I had teeth pulled and they had to sand between my bottom teeth to get the bands on - not a pleasant experience. Orthodontists are starting treatment earlier because they recognize that more can be done to the jaw when the bones have not fused yet. My son will have this in for another few months then get his braces (very early teether and now has all his permanent teeth in). My niece however had her expander removed and wears a retainer while waiting for her permanent teeth to finish coming in. If you are concerned, you can get a second opinion from another orthodontist. It also helps to shop around cause there is a range of prices available depending on the orthodontist. Find one you like and trust. Good luck!

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