What You Should Know About a Palatal Expander

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The palatal expander is one of the most common appliances orthodontists use to create more space. It can certainly sound and look scary, but it is a surprisingly simple appliance to use and tolerate!

What does an expander look like?

– An expander is fit over a few of the upper back teeth. It is custom fit for your mouth–in other words, it is made just for you! The expander is made of two halves, connected by a screw in the middle. A special key fits in the hole of the screw to help to activate the appliance and create the expansion.

Why does my child need an expander?

– Crowding: An expander can help to create more room for teeth-both for teeth that are in the mouth and also teeth that are still developing in the jaw. Creating more space in the mouth for teeth may prevent future extractions of permanent teeth and can help to improve the way developing teeth erupt into the mouth.
– Crossbite: A crossbite can occur if the upper jaw is narrower than the lower jaw. This can cause your child’s bite to shift in an unfavorable way. An expander will widen the upper jaw to help the upper and lower jaw to fit together better.
– Impacted teeth: Impacted teeth are teeth that are stuck in the jaw and are not able to erupt into the mouth on their own. An expander helps to provide more room for these impacted teeth, allowing them a better chance of erupting on their own.

My child seems young. How is an expander beneficial now?

-Children’s bones are constantly growing and developing. The upper jaw is made of two bones which will not fuse together until the teen years. The expander gently expands these growing bones to help create more room for teeth.

What can I expect when I get my expander?

– It is normal to find that eating and speaking will be different when the expander is first placed in the mouth since nothing like that has ever been in the mouth. This discomfort with the expander will improve in a short amount of time as you get used to having the expander in your mouth.
– When the expander is activated, some patients experience mild pressure on the roof of their mouth and sometimes around their nose for a few minutes.
– It is normal to also have a small gap form between the front teeth. This means that the expander is working! Often, this gap will naturally close on its own once all of the expansion is completed.

How long will I have my expander?

– After expansion, the upper jaw will naturally want to return back to it’s original shape. Because of this, your orthodontist may plan some extra expansion to account for this. Once the correct amount of expansion has been made, the expander will stay in the mouth and will act as a retainer to hold the new shape of the upper jaw. Maintaining this new shape can range from a few months to the length of your child’s orthodontic treatment.

What are some tips to help me get used to my expander?

– Try having your expander activated at night time so you can sleep off any pressure you may feel from the expander.
– When you first get your expander, start with foods that don’t require a lot of chewing, such as soup, mashed potatoes and yogurt.
– Set a reminder on your phone to make sure the expander is activate as your orthodontist instructed.

If you have any questions, we’ll be happy to answer those for you and help your child get their best smile today!