Helping Your Child Take Care Of His Or Her Palatal Expander

Before your child starts braces, he or she may need a palatal expander. These metal orthodontic devices are wired to the upper molars and stretch across the upper palate like a bridge. They help to widen the upper jaw, or maxilla, so that adult teeth have better spacing and so that the upper and lower jaws have better occlusion.

Like braces and other orthodontic devices, palatal expanders need special care. Here are some tips to keep in mind so you can help your child keep his or her expander in the best condition.

Buy a New Toothbrush More Frequently says that you should be getting a new toothbrush every three to four months or when the bristles are frayed. You may want to change out your child's toothbrush even sooner if he or she has an expander.

Your child will need to brush the expander to clean out plastic and metal components. These components can fray brush bristles much sooner, which means an older toothbrush won't be as efficient at clearing out plaque as a new one. If the brush becomes frayed before the three- or four-month mark, buy your child a new brush after about two months.

Provide the Right Foods

Some people think that only kids with braces need to watch what they eat, but children with expanders should as well. First off, you'll be using a key to turn the expander's center component, which exerts pressure on the two halves of the upper jaw and expands them. So your child won't want to eat hard or sticky foods anyway since these foods can actually be painful.

Besides pain considerations, it's important for your child to avoid certain foods, like sticky candy, since it can get trapped in the nooks and crannies of the expander. Ask your orthodontist or dentist for a list of foods to avoid. The wrong foods can wear down the expander and also cause debris that bacteria can eat.

Teach Them to Use a Waterpik and Proxabrush

Waterpiks are fantastic for cleaning expanders. A waterpik is an instrument that sends out a stream of water to loosen debris and wash away bacteria. Since you cannot really floss between an expander like you could with braces, a waterpik is a fantastic way to get debris that your child cannot reach with a toothbrush.

Besides a waterpik, buy a few proxabrushes. These brushes are small and have flexible heads. Proxabrushes can be used for all sorts of appliances and restorations, such as bridges, braces, and crowns. Since expanders are on the roof the mouth, you may need to help your child clean his or her expander with the proxabrush. Like the waterpik, this tool can reach areas that regular toothbrushes cannot, such as inside small metal screws.

For more care tips and orthodontic information, contact an orthodontist in your area.