What Is a Palate Expander? Uses, How It Works and More
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Table of Contents
- What is a Palate Expander?
- Conditions Treated
- How It Works
- Before, During & After
- Palate Expanders, Aligners or Braces?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Palate expanders are orthodontic devices that take advantage of the bone growth process to reshape the structure of a person’s jaw. Expanders push against the inner edges of the palate to stimulate bone growth and gradually expand the width of the upper jaw. Eventually, the upper jaw better matches the size of the lower jaw.
Palate expanders can prevent issues such as teeth crowding, crossbite and impacted teeth. They may be mildly uncomfortable to wear but usually do not cause any major inconvenience.
During or after a palate expansion, recipients may need to wear braces or aligners to finish off the teeth alignment process.
What Is a Palate Expander?
A palate expander is an orthodontic appliance that treats various dental complications. Also called an orthodontic expander, or palatal expander, palate expanders gradually create more space in the upper jaw.
Orthodontists often used them to widen narrow palates and align the upper jaw and teeth in pre-adolescent children.
This treatment is most successful when it is completed before the child’s jaw finishes developing. However, there are instances where you can get the procedure done in your teenage and adulthood years.
Conditions a Palatal Expander Treats
Oral care specialists employ orthodontic expanders primarily to treat three situations that involve maxillary expansion: crowding, crossbite and impacted teeth.
How Does a Palate Expander Work?
Orthodontists can customize expanders to suit the varying medical needs of their patients. The most common customizations for expanders are:
- Rapid Palate Expander (RPE)
- Removable Palatal Expander
- Implant-Supported Expansion
- Surgically-Assisted Palatal Expansion
Rapid Palate Expander (RPE)
Removable Palatal Expander
Surgically-Assisted Palatal Expansion
What to Expect Before, During and After a Palatal Insertion
Before your expander is inserted, your orthodontist will explain what the procedure involves and why it is being done. At this stage, you should learn how long the expander will be in place and what the recommended course of treatment will be once your expansion is complete.
Similar to braces, palate expanders take some time to get used to. For the first few days after the insertion, you’ll likely be very aware of the expander’s presence when you speak, swallow, and chew. Additionally, you’ll notice your tongue frequently resting against the expander. This is normal because the tongue typically rests on the palate of the upper jaw.
It may take up to a week to get used to the foreign appliance. You can ease into the experience by eating soft and easy-to-swallow foods like scrambled eggs, smoothies, yogurt, and tofu. Avoid chewy and sticky foods like hard candies, chewing gum, apples, steak, and taffy. These items will place unnecessary pressure on your sensitive teeth and may become stuck in the appliance.
Do You Need Palate Expanders, Aligners or Braces?
While palate expanders don’t necessarily have to be used with metal braces, it is common for patients to be treated with both at the same time. You may also need to wear braces or clear teeth aligners after your palate expansion is complete. Ask your orthodontist about your dental problems and what course of treatment they recommend to address those issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
How painful are palate expanders?
How can you eat with an expander in place?
What is the best age to get an expander fitted?
How do you clean a palate expander?
The Prevention of Malocclusions. (July 2017). Open Access Journal of Dental Sciences.
The Impact of Rapid Palatal Expansion on Children’s General Health: A Literature Review. (January 2014). European Journal of Paediatric Dentistry.
What is Maxillary Expansion. (September 2010). National Center for Biotechnology Information.