AAO Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas, TX

What Is the Best Age to Get a Palate Expander?

Palatal expanders are devices that are placed into the moth in order to open up the jaw, giving teeth enough space to properly grow. Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas, TX can determine the right time for this treatment. We will talk to you about what is happening in the mouth and what it will mean in the future. We will present your options and make recommendations for the best course of action. We will also answer any questions you have.

Extenders can prevent or treat problems like overcrowding and adult teeth that are not able to properly grow into the mouth through the gums. They are indicated as an early way to treat problems in the mouth before they can become bigger and require more intense treatments.

The Best Ages for Palatal Expander

Birth to Four Years Old

Very young children are not candidates for orthodontic palatal expander. This is because it is not yet clear how the teeth are going to come in and whether crowding will be a problem. At this age, the child will not have a complete set of molars. The location of the molars is a good indication that a palate expander may be needed.

However, dentists may be able to give you a head-up that a plate expander may be needed in the future. If you are worried about crowded teeth in your very young child, talk to your child’s dentist to find out more.

Five to Sixteen Years Old

This is the prime age for palatal expander. Children in this age group have most of their adult teeth, often including their molars. A palate expander can work best when the molars and most of the adult teeth have grown in but there are still some adult teeth in the upper jaw area that have not come in. This is called the mixed dentition phase  At this time, the bones in the jaw have not yet grown permanently into place, so it is easier to mold and manipulate the jaw.

Your dentist will be able to tell you the best time to consider a palate extender for children in this age group. Adolescents and older children may have jaws that are stronger, so there may be extra steps needed in treatment. Implants are sometimes helpful in this situation.


Palate expanders are usually used for children, but they can sometimes benefit adults as well. An adult jaw is completely extended and permanent adult teeth have grown in, so the treatment may take longer than it would in a child. It may also be necessary to change the treatment or to increase the pressure through surgical means or special implants.

How It Works


The first step in using a palate extender is an examination to determine if you or your child is a good candidate for an extender and to discuss your options. We will assess the placement of the teeth and the way the upper teeth and lower teeth come together. We will also assess which baby teeth are still in the mouth and how the adult teeth are coming into place. We will evaluate whether the molars are in and whether there is enough room for them.

We will have a discussion with you about the best way to deal with any problems in the mouth. There are several options, and we will recommend a palate expander if that seems to be the right choice.


A palate extender is created with specific measurements of the molars and the mouth. The first part is to fit a set of bands around the molars to keep the extender in place. Sometimes small spacers are needed to make room for the bands.

Once the properly sized bands are fitted around the molars, we make an impression of the upper jaw with the bands. When this impression is finished, we will send it to a lab where the appliance can be created.


When the appliance comes back from the lab, we will fit it into the mouth. We will put the bands back in place and then put the expander into the mouth along the upper jaw.

The expander will stay in place for about five to six months.


The appliance comes with a small key that can be used to tighten it on a regular schedule. This will need to be done at home by a parent or some other responsible person that is not the patient. Turning is typically done once a day for a couple of weeks. We will give you a specific schedule to carefully follow. Turning the device more often than recommended can interfere with the process, so be sure to stick to the schedule.

To turn the appliance, have the patient settle into a chair or lie down and tilt back the head. Look for the space in the appliance where the key is placed and insert it. Turn the key toward the back of the jaw, and the next hole will appear. This means that the device has been tightened and is working properly. 

Conditions Treated


A crossbite is a malocclusion where the bite between the top and bottom teeth does not fit properly. When the patient closes the mouth, some of the top teeth fall into place behind the bottom teeth. Depending on the extent of the problem, this can affect chewing and breathing ability. It can also cause displacement of the teeth in the mouth.

Crowded Teeth

A crowded teeth condition occurs when adult teeth grow into the mouth, but there is not enough room for them to come in properly. Teeth may begin to grow in front of or behind each other, and they may come in crooked or knock the other teeth out of place.

Crowded teeth are usually caused by genetics. The patient may have inherited a small jaw, large teeth, or both. Mouth breathing is also a problem that can cause the teeth to become crowded. This is because the tongue is designed to naturally expand a child’s palate into the proper shape. Mouth breathing puts the tongue in the wrong place.

Impacted Teeth

Impacted teeth are teeth that do not grow in because there is no room for them. Teeth can also be partially impacted. When teeth are impacted, they can be difficult to clean. This means that they are at risk of decay. Impacted teeth can also cause pain and discomfort. This occurs when the tooth tries to push through but cannot. The area can also become swollen and the gums around the impacted tooth may bleed.

Benefits of Expanders


When teeth are crowded and misaligned, they can be much more difficult to keep clean. This quickly leads to decay and eventually to the loss of teeth. An expander will give teeth the room they need so they can be easily brushed and flossed.


A misshapen jaw can be a problem when it comes to breathing properly. Expanding the palate can open the nasal airways and allow children to breathe more easily. This is particularly important at night when patients can grind their teeth. Expanders can sometimes prevent snoring and may even help with bedwetting.

An open nasal area is also helpful in preventing mouth breathing. This is a condition that can cause excessive decay and other health problems.


Expanding the palate reduces the risk of pain and discomfort that can occur when teeth are trying to push through the gums but have nowhere to go.

Saves Money

A palate extender is an appliance that can treat certain issues before they become big problems. This will save you money in future dental visits and orthodontic procedures.


A palate extender also has cosmetic benefits. Creating more room in the palate will allow teeth to grow straighter and be more even in the mouth. This will give the patient a confident smile.

Misshapen or crowded teeth can also cause the jaw and face to become uneven. Expanding the palate eliminates this problem. 

Types of Expanders

Rapid Palatal Expander

This is the most common type of expander. It is considered rapid because it can open the jar at a rate of .5mm every day and is highly effective, especially in children.

Removable Palate Expander

These are smaller expanders that are sometimes used when a major expansion isn’t necessary. They are made of chrome and can be removed.

Implant-Supported Expander

A typical rapid palatal expander applies pressure to the teeth, which moves the pliable jawbone in children. When older people need to have their palates expanded, it is sometimes necessary to put pressure on the jaw itself. This can be accomplished with the use of four small implants that shift the pressure of the appliance.

Surgically Assisted Palate Expander

When a person needs a palate expander after the adult teeth have been permanently placed, sometimes the jaw may need surgical intervention for the treatment to work. In this case, the appliance is surgically implanted into the jawbone. 

Alternative Treatments


If expanding the palate is not possible for whatever reason, the treatment alternative is usually to extract some of the teeth to make room for the rest. This is usually not considered the best option because all of the teeth were created for specific purposes, and losing some is not ideal. It can also be hard to predict how the remaining teeth are going to react once some of the teeth are missing. The remaining teeth could grow crooked or move.


Braces are often used to move teeth. This is sometimes done to push teeth together and close gaps, but it can also be used to pull teeth apart to avoid crowding. Braces are typically a long-term approach but are more powerful than an extractor and may be more appropriate for an adult or older teen.


Retainers are like braces but they are usually used for problems that are less intense. Retainers are removable appliances that fit into the mouth and gently push on the teeth. They are sometimes worn all day and often worn at night.


Using crowns to solve crowding problems is possible but not usually considered the best option. Crowns can be used to reshape the teeth themselves, allowing space between them. This may be the right approach if there is a lot of decay or damage in the teeth.

Taking Action

If you are concerned about crowded teeth in your child or yourself, contact Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas, TX for a consultation and examination. We will carefully consider what is happening and help you determine what to do next. We will talk you through your choices and tell you exactly how treatments would work and the way the mouth will change to accommodate them.

We believe in giving you the information you need to make an informed decision about your or your children’s dental and orthodontic needs. Come in for a visit, and we will get started on your path to a better smile.