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What is a Palatal Expander, and What is it Used For?

3 min read

A palatal expander is a dental appliance commonly used to help address various teeth and jaw issues, known as malocclusions. Reasons why a patient might need a palatal expander include:

  • Crossbite: Misalignment of the teeth, when the upper teeth are positioned behind the corresponding lower teeth when the jaws are closed. A palatal expander can correct a crossbite by widening the underlying bone, preventing uneven wear, gum recession, and jaw problems.
  • Crowding: A narrow jaw can lead to inadequate space to align teeth ideally. The expander can create space for your orthodontic specialist to shift your teeth into their proper positions.

Who Might Be a Candidate for a Palatal Expander?

A palate expander is most commonly used to treat growing children and young teenagers. An orthodontist can determine the appropriate age for a patient to have an expander as part of their custom treatment plan by considering age, skeletal maturity, and gender. Appropriate use of expansion therapy can help, in some cases, avoid tooth extraction, tooth impaction, or excessive flaring of teeth.

If cases are not corrected with an expander while a patient is still growing, they may experience asymmetric jaw development, abnormal tooth wear, and bite problems, which can require surgery to fix in adulthood.  

The 48ͼ recommends consulting with your orthodontist to determine the best treatment options.

Are There Different Types of Palate Expanders?

There are several different types of palatal expanders. Your orthodontist will determine the best option for you based on your unique orthodontic condition.

  • Rapid Palatal Expanders: This is the most commonly used expander, comprised of metal bands or rings affixed to molars and connected by a metal framework spanning the palate. Equipped with a screw mechanism at its center, the RPE gently widens the upper jaw over time when activated with a key.
  • Bonded Expander: Alternatively, this expander uses an acrylic attachment, which is permanently affixed with dental cement or bonding material throughout treatment.
  • Removable Expander: For milder cases, this expander provides a flexible solution that a patient can remove for cleaning, eating, and other activities. It consists of a custom-made acrylic plate that fits the patient’s mouth comfortably and securely.

Are Palatal Expanders Safe & Effective?

Yes, these appliances have been used for decades to treat orthodontic issues and are safe and effective, especially when under the careful supervision of an orthodontic expert. There can be some discomfort as you adjust to your new expander, but it is minimal and only lasts for a short time. Expanders with proper care, cleaning, and regular checkups by an orthodontist are very effective. Palatal expanders are a fantastic tool in an orthodontist’s toolkit and may play an essential role in correcting your orthodontic issues. 

Visit our Orthodontist locator page to find an 48ͼ orthodontic specialist in your area and set up a consultation today.