Our dentist suggested that my older son see an orthodontist to possibly see if an expander (also known as a palatal expander, rapid palatal expander, rapid maxillary expansion appliance, palate expander or orthodontic expander) was necessary. My son was 9.5 years old at the time and had pretty straight teeth, nearly perfect actually, so I was surprised.
We did see the orthodontist, and indeed a palate expander was recommended. He is well trusted as he actually is a relative of ours who is not making a profit off of our services so I know this is not being done unnecessarily.
The two teeth next to the top center front teeth were overlapping the two front teeth. This really has been developing within the last year, the year that he was nine years old. The same thing was happening on the bottom. Other than that my son’s teeth were nice and straight, at the correct angles and so on. I had assumed that as my son’s jaw grew over time, that his teeth would straighten out.
I had not even heard of this thing called a palate expander. Basically what they are doing is forcing the jaw to widen to be wider than the body had anticipated it to be. In this way the teeth can straighten out, with or without braces, keeping more of the adult teeth intact. The goal is to keep as many of the adult teeth in the mouth as possible. Back when I was a teen, with a too-small for the teeth jaw, the dentists pulled out some of the adult teeth and then used braces to move the remaining teeth around.
So plans were made to put in the palate expander. Not much was said about side effects. First they put in the top one, then left that there for a few weeks so he could get used to it (not yet using it), before they put in the bottom one.
I was shocked when I realized my son’s lovely voice was gone. Formerly my son had no speech impediments. With this expander in place, he has multiple, temporary “speech impediments”. His speech is terrible. He has a new lisp, and his speech is in general, garbled. Sometimes it is hard to hear what he is saying at all. It is actually so bad that I am a bit embarrassed for him as I see that other children and also adults do have a hard time understanding him.
I also wonder if any of the adults are judging him or me, assuming erroneously that my son has terrible speech problems and probably assuming that I am some stupid mother who never bothered to get her kid speech therapy. Those who meet us through homeschooling, especially the people who are just meeting us for the first time, may even (gasp) be thinking that we’re negligent, because if a kid was in school with this speech he definitely would have been referred for speech therapy.
It does not really matter what other people think. I know that my son does NOT have a speech impediment, biologically, that his awful speech now is due to the palate expander, and that this is temporary and will disappear when the expander is removed.
My son has one that looks like this Hyrax Rapid Palate Expander; you can see what one looks like, go here then scroll down and look for the one marked Hyrax Rapid Palate Expander. After seeing that you can now understand how that thing would impede normal speech!
When the palate expander was installed onto his bottom jaw, it got even worse. Can you imagine having a bunch of metal under your tongue? Imagine shoving a marble in front of your bottom two teeth, then try to talk. Can you imagine how that would change your speech?
A gross thing also is that this metal in his mouth over-stimulates the salivary glands. He creates so much saliva that it literally flies out of his mouth when he is talking. He has been wearing these things for two months and the saliva shows no signs of stopping. If his mouth is not closed at all times, he drools. It is horrible if he is breathing through his mouth and suddenly a big drool comes out, talk about gross!
A friend scared the pants off of me when she told me that a certain side effect happened to her niece and nephew. I was not told anything about that side effect. I searched online for a long time and found only two references to that. I then spoke with the orthodontist about it and he said that if done correctly, that side effect won’t happen at all. I won’t even mention what she said as if someone reads it on my blog they may also freak out.
My son’s expander is turned once every 48 hours. That is a very gentle widening. In this short time that the expander has been in, his teeth are nearly perfectly aligned. The orthodontist said that different orthodontists have different recommendations for how often to turn the key and how much to turn it. He said he feels that some orthodontists are doing it way too quickly and too dramatically, forcing the jaw to widen very quickly. He said that if it is used more aggressively that there can be headaches or very bad headaches as well as very painful or sore teeth that makes normal eating a challenge, and sometimes also causing the two front teeth to create a sudden gap. Our orthodontist is interested in a gentler, slow use of the expander. For the record so far my son does not have any space between his two front teeth.
The orthodontist estimates that this son will never need regular braces, and may or may not even need the use of a retainer.
The art of orthodontics has really changed in the last 25 years!
The only thing I’ll say is that if you child is going to get a palate expander, listen to that voice and enjoy it, before it is installed, and just be prepared for changes.
I really miss my son’s real voice! But it will be nice for him to avoid having to have regular braces as I did (for 3.5 years) and for him to have perfectly straight teeth, too.
NOTE: Please read the comments section because other parents have written interesting comments about their experiences.
A detailed article about the Hyrax Rapid Palatal Expander
Wikipedia article on Palatal Expander (at present it doesn't tell much information)
You can find many articles by doing a Google search by the name of this unit, many orthodontists' practices have information about the devices that they use on their patients.
Technorati Tags: palate expander, palatal expander, braces expander, rapid palatal expander, Hyrax rapid palatal expander, speech changes expander, speech changes palate expander, speech changes palatal expander.