Palate expanders (sometimes called “palatal expanders”) are corrective devices that orthodontists use to treat bite issues in developing patients. Children or pre-adolescents whose bite problems are caused by a narrow top jaw may respond well to a palate expander.
If your child has oral health issues that your orthodontist believes could be treated with a palate expander, or you want to find out whether the appliance is right for your child, continue reading to learn what palate expanders are and what they can do.
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What is a Palate Expander?
Palate expanders are devices made from metal rods that are fastened to the palette by a central tightening mechanism. These devices are not exclusively used for patients that are still growing, but this is when the device is most useful. In young patients, facial and jaw development is simply easier for your orthodontist to manipulate.
These devices expand the palate over time, thereby giving the patient’s upper jaw more room to produce a healthy bite and grow their teeth in a healthy configuration. Palate expanders can be adjusted for tightness using a key that turns the screw in the device, which your orthodontist will show you how to do.
What Can a Palette Expander Correct?
A lack of room on the upper jaw for the patient’s permanent teeth is the main reason that orthodontists will consider a palate expander. Without this expansion, teeth can come in crowded and may require extraction later.
Additionally, front and back crossbites caused by a narrow upper arch can be corrected using a palate expander. A crossbite is a bite issue that occurs when teeth do not line up when the patient closes their mouth. If the upper teeth do not sit on the outsides of the lower teeth, the uneven bite can cause issues over time like jaw pain, tooth damage, speech impediments, and eating issues.
Without a palate expander, teeth that don’t have enough room to come in can become blocked or impacted.
The 4 Types of Palate Expanders
There are four main types of palate expanders. The first is removable, which will be prescribed for 24 hours per day, taken out only for eating, teeth-brushing, and playing sports. The others are all fixed expanders that your orthodontist will apply for the duration of treatment.
These include hyrax rapid palate expanders, Haas expanders, and the quad helix appliance. They are all bonded to your back molars, with differences in where they are compressed and therefore where the pressure is placed. Your orthodontist will explain which palate expander is right for your jaw.
How Long Will My Child Need a Palate Expander?
When worn correctly, palate expanders are generally prescribed for at least six months. This gives the patient’s jaw enough time to grow while wearing the expander.
When first wearing this device, many patients find that chewing and speaking presents new challenges. However, any discomfort or speech differences usually resolve within a few days, as the patient learns to talk and chew around their device.
Many parents panic when they notice gaps forming in their child’s front row of teeth during palatal expansion. However, this is a normal function of the expander as it creates more space in their jaw for teeth to come in.
Best Practices for Palate Expander Adjustments
It may seem daunting at first to manually adjust your child’s palate expander, but the process is not difficult with a few best practices. Before the palate expander can work, it has to be activated by manually tightening the device with its key.
Your orthodontist will show you how to adjust your child’s appliance. But here are a few tips on how to do it smoothly:
- We recommend tightening the expander around your child’s bedtime, so they get used to it overnight
- Activate the appliance with your child’s head tilted back so you can see their palette
- Use the provided key, and push it completely into the appliance towards the back of your child’s mouth until you can see the next hole
- Press on the key towards their tongue to remove the key and make sure the next hole in the appliance’s tightening structure is clearly visible
Importantly, if you forget to activate and tighten the expander one day, you should never turn it twice as tightly the next day. Continue doing one turn of the key each day as prescribed by your provider.
Choose Reese Orthodontics
If you’re an adult who is considering braces, you need professional advice on your treatment and payment options. For orthodontic treatments in Charleston, SC, Reese Orthodontics offers the latest technology and treatment plans. Our advanced and comfortable orthodontic treatments can be customized to suit your needs. A consultation with Reese Orthodontics includes scans, a comprehensive exam, and a conversation with the orthodontist to discover which treatment options are right for you.
Schedule an appointment with us today to stay ahead of your oral health and receive the best possible treatment in your area.