Rapid maxillary expansion (RME) is an orthodontic procedure used to widen the upper jaw (maxilla). It is commonly performed in individuals with a narrow upper jaw or a constricted dental arch. The goal of RME is to create additional space in the jaw to correct various orthodontic issues, such as crowding of teeth, crossbites, and breathing difficulties.
During the RME procedure, a specialized orthodontic appliance, called a palatal expander, is used. The expander is custom-made to fit the patient’s mouth and is typically attached to the upper molars with bands or cemented directly to the teeth. The expander consists of a screw mechanism in the middle, which is activated by turning a key or screw on a daily basis.
As the patient turns the screw, it gradually widens the expander, applying gentle pressure on the upper jaw. This pressure stimulates the growth and expansion of the mid-palatal suture, a flexible cartilage joint in the middle of the upper jaw. Over time, the suture gradually separates, allowing the upper jaw to widen.
Rapid maxillary expansion is usually performed in children and adolescents when their jaws are still developing and more responsive to expansion. The treatment duration can vary depending on the individual’s needs, but typically the expansion phase lasts for a few weeks to a few months.
Benefits of rapid maxillary expansion may include:
1. Increased space for crowded teeth: RME creates additional room in the upper jaw, which can help alleviate crowding of teeth and improve their alignment.
2. Correction of crossbites: RME can correct crossbites, where the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth, by expanding the width of the upper arch.
3. Improved breathing and airway: RME can help alleviate breathing difficulties associated with a narrow upper jaw, such as obstructive sleep apnea or nasal congestion.
4. Enhanced facial aesthetics: Widening the upper jaw can contribute to a more balanced and harmonious facial profile.
It’s important to note that RME is typically followed by a retention phase to stabilize the expansion and allow the surrounding tissues to adapt to the new position of the jaw. This phase usually involves wearing a retainer or other orthodontic appliances.
It’s recommended to consult with an orthodontist to determine if rapid maxillary expansion is suitable for your specific orthodontic concerns. They will evaluate your dental and skeletal structures, take necessary X-rays and scans, and develop a personalized treatment plan to address your needs.
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