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What Are Palatal Expanders? How Do They Work?

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smiling child with braces When most people hear the word “orthodontics,” their minds immediately think about teeth being straightened, and this is completely understandable. However, your orthodontist in Powell is able to accomplish much more than simply putting the teeth in the right positions. Using an appliance called a palatal expander, they can not only correct the alignment of the upper teeth, but address and prevent several other problems as well. What could a palatal expander do for your child’s smile? You can learn more about them by reading on below!

What is a Palatal Expander?

For some children, the roof of their mouth, or hard palate, is quite narrow. This can lead to crowding in the upper teeth and even prevent them from coming in straight in the first place. Because of this lack of room along the upper arch, just using braces to fix this problem isn’t enough—the size of the palate needs to be increased, and as you might have guessed, this is where a palatal expander can help.

It’s a small metal appliance that runs along the roof of the mouth, and the ends loop around the back teeth to give it stability. Over time, the appliance is gradually widened, directing the growth and development of the upper jawbone. This is done using a small key. Because the bones of the jaw and face usually don’t fully harden until adulthood, this approach is extremely effective for young children. At the end of treatment, the result will be a much larger hard palate, giving the upper teeth plenty of room to be shifted in response to braces.

Problems That Palatal Expanders Can Fix

  • Crossbite: The upper teeth are supposed to sit outside of the lower teeth when the mouth is closed, but if the hard palate is too narrow, this relationship may be reversed, which is called a crossbite. By increasing the size of the palate, this can be corrected.
  • Crowding: A palatal expander can help fix crowding by creating more room between the upper teeth so they can be straightened, and it can also prevent further crowding by giving incoming teeth a clear path to erupt correctly.
  • Impacted Teeth: If a tooth doesn’t have enough room to come in, it can become stuck within the gums, or impacted. This often happens with the canine teeth.

A palatal expander helps create a wider, more attractive smile and can increase the size of a child’s airway, which will improve their breathing, primarily while they are asleep. And, when a palatal expander is paired with braces, it can drastically cut down on a child’s overall treatment time.

Does Your Child Need a Palatal Expander?

If there is noticeable crowding in your child’s upper teeth, then their orthodontist may recommend a palatal expander. On average, they are used for about 3-6 months to achieve the desired results. The best way to answer this question, of course, is to consult an orthodontist and give them a chance to examine your child’s mouth.

On the journey to a perfectly straight and beautiful smile, palatal expanders are just another tool orthodontists can use to help children get the results they deserve as quickly and easily as possible.

About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Shirck is an award-winning orthodontist in Powell who loves helping patients of all ages achieve healthy, confident smiles that they love to show off. In addition to treatments like braces and Invisalign, he can also use appliances like a palatal expander to dramatically enhance a child’s health and appearance at the same time. To learn more about this treatment and whether or not your little one could benefit from it, we invite you to schedule a FREE consultation by clicking here.