A Parent’s Guide to Orthodontic Treatment for Their Kids

Understanding phase one treatment

As a parent of a child in current orthodontic treatment and the treatment coordinator at Hinsdale Ortho, I have found some helpful tips that I wanted to share. In this blog, you will find some information about the two-phase treatment approach as well as what my daughter, Kayleen, and I experienced personally. If you’re not familiar with this treatment approach, phase one treatment is when a child may need to have orthopedic treatment, such as an expander, facemask, Herbst, and/or braces, to help create space for unerupted adult teeth, prevent tooth impaction, and correct bite discrepancies. Kayleen needed phase one treatment with an expander and braces.

What is phase two treatment?

After the second phase of treatment (which typically occurs during adolescence), Kayleen will have a healthy bite and tooth position. The focus will then be on the cosmetic side of orthodontics once all adult teeth have erupted. She was excited that she needed braces but wasn’t too sure as to why an expander was needed since this was her first time hearing of it. One reason why your child may need an expander is due to a narrow jaw that can cause crowded, crooked, and overlapping teeth. Impacted teeth can also be the result of a narrow jaw.

What is the function of an orthodontic expander?

I explained to Kayleen that her jaw was a little small and that this would help her baby teeth come out and her adult teeth come into place. The first step to having an expander is to take an impression of your upper teeth and palate. This goopy material becomes the model for making the expander, giving the impression of a finished product. 

With the use of a key, the expander (a fixed device that attaches to the roof of your mouth) can enlarge your mouth. It is our responsibility as parents or guardians to flip the key to open the expansion. It was a learning curve for me because I had never turned a key on an expander. What happens to be convenient about the expander is that the keyhole becomes visible at any moment.

After inserting the key, you must press it downward; there are indications (e.g. an arrow) to assist you; remember the way to go in case you are approaching from different angles. I tried a couple of different positions: one with me immediately in front of her and having her lean her head back; another with me behind her and having her head resting on my lap.

I had difficulties some nights turning the expander but found that I was putting the key too far in. You only have to turn the key a little bit at first, and then it becomes routine. Once you see the next keyhole come up, that’s when you stop turning. At your initial appointment, either Dr. Nick or Dr. Blair will tell you how many turns you need before your next visit. You’ll be able to do the first turn in the office, with hands-on instructions from one of our amazing assistants.

What should I expect for the duration of phase two?

Your child will need to get used to speaking, drinking, and eating with the expander once it has been glued in. Fortunately, Kayleen experienced minimal discomfort from the expander, although the first few days can be challenging for our tiny ones. The best option is to attempt to provide soft foods that are simpler to swallow and won’t clump together while being eaten, like bread sometimes does. It grew simpler for Kayleen as she got used to speaking with it.

She would occasionally have problems eating, even when it wasn’t bread or cheese. We discovered that it was better to just take smaller chunks and properly chew each one so that it didn’t get stuck as frequently. The indentations the expander left on Kayleen’s tongue also gave her a little fright. If you are experiencing any gum pain or inflammation, the glycerin in popsicles can help reduce those symptoms, and the coolness from the popsicles may feel wonderful.

How do I care for my child’s orthodontic treatment?

Dr. Nick or Dr. Blair will inform you when you have achieved the expansion required for your child and when you may stop turning the expander. They will do this by examining and assessing the expansion’s progress to determine how many more rounds will be required (if any). The expander will remain attached for the period of time specified by the doctor, so it can assist in keeping the upper jaw in its new position. The expander can be removed after that position is maintained. It’s ideal for them to chew gum after removal to make it seem a little more natural since their bite was affected by the expander.

Contact Us Today!

If you’re interested in learning more about our orthodontic treatment, we would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Contact our team and let us expand your child’s smile!