What is a Palatal Expander?

by | Mar 21, 2023 | General Orthodontics, Orthodontic Treatments | 0 comments

7 min reading time

At Loudoun Orthodontics, patients of all ages, from children to senior citizens, seek effective dental solutions.

Although some dental health concerns develop later in life, others become accustomed to orthodontic appointments from a young age.

For example, you need orthodontic appliances to solve crossbites and upper jaw discrepancies to improve your child’s oral health.

Palatal expanders are the answer!

Palatal expanders can quickly fix crossbites or narrow upper jaws.

Orthodontists’ use of such appliances has been successful for decades, both for children and adults.

Several palate expanders are available for our patients, each of which has its own pros and cons. However, they all aim to help your teeth grow healthy.

Palate expanders offer many health benefits, and this article discusses ways to extend the life of your palate expander.


What Is a Palate Expander?

A palate expander is an oral orthodontic appliance that repositions the upper jawbone by moving both halves of the upper jawbone over time.

Orthodontists place it right on the roof of the mouth.

Children with narrow upper jaws are commonly treated with orthodontic expanders.

A palatal expansion from a young age will prove more rewarding in the long run, especially since their jawbones are still growing and settling into their lifetime places.

However, teens and adults can also get them!


How Does a Palatal Expander Work?

During childhood, the jaw experiences tremendous growth and movement. The left and right halves of the child’s upper jaw grow and constantly move until puberty, when they finally fuse. Palatal expander,palate expander

Because of this, it is better to have a palate expander installed as soon as possible.

The stainless steel device applies pressure to the two halves of the upper jaw, causing them to widen apart.

It is important to note that when the palate expander fulfills its purpose, new bone tissue fills in the space left behind.

The device usually takes 3-12 months to do the job.

Once the treatment is complete, your teeth can grow into the newly created space.


The Types of Palate Expanders

A specialist can help determine the best palate expander for you based on various factors, including age and upper jaw width.


1. Removable Palate Expander

A removable palate expander is an option with the least dramatic results.

Orthodontists recommend them to patients who only need a little more space in their upper jaws.

These removable palate expanders are typically worn throughout the day except when eating, playing, or brushing teeth.

You may even mistake them for an orthodontic retainer, though they are made of different materials (i.e., chrome instead of acrylic).


2. Rapid Palatal Expander

Most patients wear a rapid palatal expander for 3-6 months to achieve their desired results.

These expanders work similarly to removable ones for quick results.

On average, the expander widens the upper jaw by 0.5 millimeters daily.


3. Surgically Assisted Rapid Palatal Expander (SARPE)

A surgically assisted palate expander, or SARPE, is a new way to widen your jaws.

SARPEs are used primarily by children with moderate to severe crowding or adults with a fully developed upper jaw.

Your upper back teeth support the device, which is mounted on the mid-palatal suture.


4. Implant-Supported Palate Expander

With implant-supported palate expanders, pressure is applied to four small dental implants instead of your teeth, unlike the previous devices.

Since the upper jaw is treated directly, not your teeth, your orthodontist will work closely with a periodontist to install the implants.


When Are Palate Expanders Necessary?

By widening a narrow upper jaw, you can solve several oral health problems, including:

  1. Crooked and overlapping teeth: It will be easier for your child’s adult teeth to erupt properly if there is enough space in their oral cavity.
  2. Crossbite: This condition causes your upper teeth to stack inside your lower teeth due to insufficient space. A wider jaw will allow the upper teeth to stack properly on the lower ones.
  3. Impacted teeth: In impacted teeth, a bone or other tissue prevents an incoming adult tooth (usually a canine) from erupting. A palate expander removes this obstruction and allows the incoming tooth to emerge without any invasive treatment.
  4. Overcrowded teeth: When children have crowded teeth, palate expanders reduce the need for tooth extractions or braces since there is enough room in the oral cavity for proper brushing and the eruption of adult teeth.
  5. Sleep apnea: Patients with this condition may benefit from a palate expander.


Palatal expander,palate expander

FAQs About Palate Expanders

Are Palate Expanders Painful?

It may take a while for you to get used to palate expanders, but they won’t cause you any significant discomfort.

When you get used to them, you shouldn’t feel their presence any longer.

Before the actual treatment, the process is more uncomfortable.

Initially, your orthodontist will place an orthodontic separator between your teeth.

This device is uncomfortable for about a week, but after that, it is replaced with a palate expander.

You will notice your palatal expander’s presence only when adjusting your palatal expander, which adds pressure to the jaw and teeth.


When Do Younger Children Need a Palate Expander?

It is most common for children to require an orthodontic palatal expander when they suffer from conditions such as:

  • Crooked and overlapping teeth
  • Crossbite
  • Impacted teeth
  • Overcrowded teeth
  • Sleep apnea

Schedule a consultation with our office if your child exhibits any of these symptoms!


How Long Will I Wear My Palate Expander?

The orthodontic device will remain in your oral cavity until the palatal expansion is complete, allowing the new bone tissue to grow.

A patient’s upper jaw width and age may affect the timetable.

For example, a child’s mouth requires less time for the upper jaw to expand, whereas an adult, whose jaws are already mature, will require more patience.

Consequently, most patients wear palate expanders between 4-6 months and a year.

Palatal expander,palate expander

Will a Palate Expander Affect My Face Shape?

The answer is no. Palate expanders only widen your jaw; their results don’t change your face’s actual appearance.


How Do I Adjust My Palate Expander?

Certain palate expanders require constant adjustment to ensure that the pressure on your jaw stays the same.

Your orthodontist will explain this process in detail.

Orthodontic expanders have a series of holes on the screw that appear with every adjustment.

To ensure you are making progress, insert a special key into the last hole and rotate it toward the back of your mouth.

Each rotation will result in a new hole.

Keep track of your progress by following your adjustment calendar to the letter!


How Will I Eat With a Palate Expander?

As with braces, your new palate expander will take some time to adjust to.

Once the roof of your mouth is past the device’s novelty, everything will return to normal.

It may affect your chewing, speaking, and swallowing, but not enough to cause serious problems.

While waiting for your discomfort to subside, try eating softer foods, like eggs and yogurt.

Avoid sticky or chewy foods, such as candy, steak, and apples, which will aggravate your symptoms.


What if My Palate Expander Breaks or Becomes Loose?

There are various reasons why palate expanders can become loose or fall out of the mouth (e.g., poor eating habits, poor fitting of bands).

If the device is slightly loose, gently push it back.

Place the device in a Ziploc bag and store it somewhere safe if it has come out of the mouth completely.

If this occurs, schedule an appointment with your orthodontist immediately because every day spent with a faulty expander will impede your treatment.

The worst-case scenario is if the device breaks at the solder joint or the band itself.

The broken pieces are dangerous to your oral health because they can cut your cheeks, lips, or the roof of your mouth.

You should remove your device immediately from your mouth and make an appointment with your orthodontist as soon as possible.

Palatal expander,palate expander

Start Your Palate Expander Journey at Loudoun Orthodontics!

Contact Loudoun Orthodontics if palate expanders are the solution to your dental woes. Whether you want to learn more about the benefits of palate expanders or have questions about the process, use our live chat or call (703) 858-0303 or send us a message through our Contact Us page to connect with our friendly staff today to book a complimentary orthodontic consultation! Our office, located at 19465 Deerfield Ave, Suite 304, Leesburg, VA 20176, proudly serves Loudoun County and Greater Washington DC. So, if you’re residing in Ashburn, Lansdowne, or Sterling and are looking for one of the best orthodontists in Virginia, don’t hesitate to visit our office! We also invite you to keep up with our blog to get answers to many of the frequently asked questions about maintaining sparkling oral health, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to become a part of our smiling community!