A palatal expander is an orthodontic device used to widen the upper teeth. It is placed against the roof of the mouth and cemented to the teeth on the sides of the mouth.
How it Works
The palate is the bony structure that forms the roof of the mouth. It has a joint down the middle of it where the two sides of the mouth come together. When this joint doesn’t fuse during fetal development, a condition called cleft palate can occur. Full fusion of the joint doesn’t occur until after puberty.
Palatal expanders use the same principles employed in car jacks to apply pressure to each side of the mouth, slowly pushing the two sides of the palate apart. If moved slowly enough, the joint remains intact while the upper palate gradually gets wider. New connective tissue and bone is laid down to hold the two sides of the palate firmly in their new positions. After placement of the palatal expander, the patient slowly widens the appliance over the course of several months by gradually tightening the central screw one or two turns each day, slowly pushing the teeth sideways to widen the palate.
What are the Indications?
Many children develop a too-narrow palate that doesn’t allow for sufficient room for the teeth to form normally. Palatal expanders are used to create more space for the teeth in order to avoid extractions or crowding of the teeth. They are also used to correct cross-bite problems, and can be helpful in correcting breathing problems caused by a too-narrow palate blocking the nasal passages. In other cases, they are simply used to improve the appearance of the face and smile by broadening a too-narrow upper jaw.
What to Expect
After placement of the expander, it takes most people two to three days to become used to it. It will feel quite odd during the adjustment period, and will then start to feel normal. It needs to stay in place for a full four to six months. There may be some discomfort during placement, but no overt pain during the widening process should occur. A gap between the two front teeth may occur during the widening process, and sometimes the teeth may tip oddly. Many patients require braces in addition to or after use of a palatal expander to straighten and move the teeth into more anatomically correct positions for both cosmetic and health reasons.
Schedule Your Consultation
If you’re interested in a palatal expander, Dr. Michael Ragan could be able to help. Along with his medical team in the Dallas area, Dr. Ragan will work with you and/or your child to determine the best treatment for his or her needs. Contact Ragan Orthodontics today to schedule your consultation.