A palatal expander is an orthodontic appliance used to widen the upper arch of teeth. This common appliance typically precedes braces and is most commonly prescribed for children and adolescents undergoing tooth transition. Palatal expanders help our orthodontist accomplish many things such as widening the mouth to improve an occlusion or to create extra room for emerging adult teeth. These oral appliances can help prevent orthodontic issues that may require more invasive treatments while also making braces and other teeth straightening devices more effective.
How Palatal Expanders Work
Sometimes referred to as an orthodontic expander, this apparatus is placed in the roof of the mouth. Most patients will wear an expander for a little over two months to achieve optimal results. By placing gentle yet consistent pressure on the teeth at the back of the mouth (the molars), the palatal expander will widen the upper jawbone over time. Since children’s jaws and palates are still developing during tooth transition, widening the upper arch of teeth is much easier than it would be in teenagers or adults.
With each phase of treatment, the palate expander will be activated to widen the upper jaw. This activation, depending on the type of expander used, may be done by a member of our staff or by patients at home. Your orthodontist will prescribe your course of treatment based on your unique needs.
Once the palate is expanded to its desired width, the oral appliance will be removed and the next phase of orthodontic treatment will be begin. Sometimes, patients who have worn a palatal expander see gaps between their front teeth. This is not uncommon and it is actually a good thing because it means that there is extra room in the mouth for tooth movement. This gap between teeth will be closed with futureorthodontic treatment.
Why Orthodontic Expanders Are Necessary
In order for braces and other aligning treatments to work, there must be room in the mouth for teeth to shift. When teeth are crowded or overlapping, space must be created to straighten them out. This is where devices like a palatal expander come into the picture. Not only will a palatal expander help widen the roof of the mouth, it will help align the way that the upper and lower sets of teeth align (the occlusion) when the mouth is closed. Straight teeth and a healthy occlusion are important for enjoyingoptimal oral health well into adulthood.