Everything You Need to Know About Palatal Expanders

Your facial symmetry is altered by the shape of your mouth. However, a crossbite or narrow upper jaw can often lead to complicated and painful oral health issues. At Farrow & Dewbre Orthodontics, our team can straighten your teeth and correct your jaw shape. We accomplish this by using an orthodontic appliance called a palatal expander. This expander applies pressure to your jaw. Over time, it widens the upper jaw, allowing permanent teeth to grow in and existing teeth to be adjusted appropriately. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about palatal expanders.

Why Use a Palatal Expander?

Let’s start with the basics. Your upper jaw grows in two separate pieces as your mouth matures. It isn’t until you reach puberty that the two halves bind together to form a solid supporting structure. This means that our orthodontic team can take advantage of that permeability to help provide your teeth space to grow. We can also align your upper jaw with your lower jaw for the best alignment and bite. 

Dr. Farrow and Dr. Dewbre design palatal expanders from a digital scan of your upper jaw and teeth. We send your scan to a lab where the data is turned into a high-grade metal appliance that we place on the molar teeth in the back of the mouth. The device consists of two halves that are connected in the center by a screw that you will be instructed to turn with a special key on a specified schedule. This process takes time as it keeps pressure on both halves of the jaw bone, causing them to widen as intended. This is left on for a specific amount of time after the desired results are achieved to allow time for the bone to get used to its new position.

Different Types of Palatal Expanders

Depending on the adjustments needed for your specific jaw, there are several different types of palate expanders. Some expanders are fixed and some are removable. All palatal expanders are custom-made for the perfect fit for your palate shape and size. Let’s look at some of the options in orthodontic expanders. 

Fixed Palate Expander

The fixed palate expander, also referred to as the rapid palate expander (RPE), is a system of bands attached to corresponding back molars that connect high in the center of the roof of the mouth with a screw. Our doctors will give you a special key with instructions on how and when to use it to rotate the screw, maintaining adequate pressure for mouth expansion.

Removable Palate Expander

If you need only minor jaw corrections, a removable option may be a better alternative for you. There are many brands, but in general, this appliance looks similar to a clear aligner tray with a screw in the center. It will need to be worn twenty-four hours a day but does not require a longer treatment time. Removable palatal expanders don’t always require daily screw tightening like permanent appliances. 

Everything You Need to Know About Palatal Expanders

Who Needs a Palatal Expander?

Palatal expanders gradually expand the roof of your mouth and widen your upper jaw. People with different types of problems can benefit from this specific orthodontic treatment. Malocclusions like an overbite can lead to complications like jaw and head pain, tooth decay, gum disease, and sleep apnea. Having a narrow jaw can affect tooth alignment, leading to impaction and broken teeth or even obstruction of permanent teeth that have yet to grow in. Both of these dental corrections can be made by utilizing a palatal expander.

Before you reach puberty, your bones are still growing and forming, which makes them a bit softer than adult bones. This is also true for your jawbones. Why is this important? Because it means that this treatment is quicker and more effective when used on children before adult teeth are entirely in place. 

Considerations and Alternatives

Like with any orthodontic procedure, palatal expanders require time, work, and effort. While they may sound a bit painful, it isn’t anything more than minor discomfort, and typically, that discomfort only lasts a few minutes after adjusting the screw. Just like with braces, palatal expanders may take some time to get used to as your tongue rests against the expander. This can make speaking, chewing, and swallowing seem a little off. However, chances are, you are the only one that notices, and you’ll get used to it in about a week. 

Orthodontic treatment with a palatal expander can cause space to form between your upper front two teeth. This is normal and the gap closes on its own. However, braces might be an excellent option for some patients to maintain this change. You may experience some drooling, a lisp, or even some mild headaches during your treatment, especially after tightening the central screw.  

There may be some instances where an alternative option to palatal expanders may be better. Dr. Farrow and Dr. Dewbre can recommend traditional braces, removal of impacted or overcrowded teeth, or even jaw surgery to correct the spacing in your jaw.

Everything You Need to Know About Palatal Expanders

Trust your smile to Farrow & Dewbre Orthodontics

You deserve the best possible smile. No matter where you are on your orthodontic journey, you need the right office to guide you along to get it. Our Farrow & Dewbre Orthodontics team is knowledgeable, friendly, and eager to guide you through your orthodontic procedure. 

Our dedication to our Western Oklahoma patients shows through our exceptional care, and we pride ourselves on staying up-to-date on the latest orthodontic treatments and technologies. Schedule a FREE consultation with us today!