Everything You Need To Know About Palatal Expanders

At Clauss Orthodontics, we believe that a patient can’t really make an informed decision without learning all the facts and options available. One of the major orthodontic tools for helping achieve a brand new smile is the palatal expander. It’s a great choice for patients who want to get an early start on their oral health. If you want to know how a palatal expander can improve your smile, here’s the place to learn everything you need to know about these commonly used appliances.

Palatal Expanders

A palatal expander is an orthodontic appliance that widens the upper jaw. It makes the jaw bone larger to create more space for your permanent teeth. Palatal expanders also fix discrepancies between the upper and lower jaws to keep your bite in proper, more healthy alignment.

Sometimes, patients will need palatal expanders prior to more comprehensive treatment with braces or aligners.  This may be because more space is needed to alleviate crowding or a jaw discrepancy exists. 

A palatal expander can work in a few different ways, and there are different types of expanders available to patients depending on treatment needs.

Fixed Palatal Expander

The fixed palatal expander, also called the rapid palatal expander (RPE), is a system of bands attached to the back molars. A fixed palatal expander connects high in the center of the roof of the mouth via a screw and comes with a key.  Since your palate is actually composed of two separate bones, each half of the expander is connected to one. When you turn the key to activate the device, the space between your palatal bones widens a tiny bit. Your orthodontist will give you a special key with instructions on how and when to use it to rotate the screw,  based on your individual needs.

Removable Palatal Expander

Removable palatal expanders are a great option for patients who only need minor jaw corrections. They are removable appliances that look similar to a clear aligner tray with a screw in the center. Even though they are removable, they should be worn twenty-four hours a day (except when eating and brushing). Removable palatal expanders don’t always require daily activation like permanent appliances and your orthodontist will provide you with instructions specific to your case.. 

An Ideal Palatal Patient

Palatal expanders can be effective tools for both older and younger patients alike. While expansion is effective in younger patients, palatal expanders can still be a great option for adults looking to align their smile. 

Prior to reaching puberty your bones are still growing and forming, which makes them softer compared to adult bones and thus are easier to move. In adults,  the bones have completed growing and are therefore more resistant to change.  Special techniques are usually needed to obtain palatal expansion in adult patients, including implants or other surgical options.  We would be happy to discuss these options with you.

The Palatal Treatment

Palatal expanders are an ideal tool for patients who want to get a jump on crowding or jaw width issues. The purpose of an expander is to create room and symmetry along the jaw so that your teeth can grow evenly into place. Palatal expanders can help alleviate issues such as:

Crossbite – A crossbite often occurs because the upper jaw is too narrow to fit properly with the lower jaw. This causes some bottom teeth to bite outside the top teeth. While patients can have an anterior or posterior crossbite, a palatal expander is typically needed to fix a posterior crossbite. 

Severe Crowding – Crowding results in rotations and overlapping of the teeth due to a general lack of space. A properly used palatal expander can help widen the jaw, thus creating more space to fit the permanent teeth.  This can minimize future crowding and may help avoid the need for future permanent tooth extraction. 

Impacted Teeth – Crowding or lack of space can block a permanent tooth’s path, preventing it from properly erupting. When a tooth is prevented from erupting, it becomes impacted. This is most commonly seen with canine teeth (eye teeth). A palatal expander can help create enough space for the impacted tooth to erupt on its own, thus avoiding more invasive intervention. 

Sleep Apnea – Besides crowding issues, palatal expanders can help ease sleep apnea symptoms. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that interrupts your breathing patterns while you sleep. By realigning your jaw, palatal expanders help open up the airways to the patient’s breathing passage to allow better, more consistent sleeping cycles.  Sleep apnea patients require a team approach to treatment that includes a medical sleep specialist as well as the orthodontist.

Filling Your Palate

If you’re considering whether palatal expansion is right for you or your child, our experienced team at Clauss Orthodontics in Watertown and Middlebury is here to help. We would be happy to discuss your specific needs and design a treatment plan to address them.

Each expander is custom made for your mouth and thus requires a 3D digital scan (no more goopy impressions!) to be sent off to the lab for fabrication.  Placing the appliance is simple.  Our team will carefully prepare your teeth and take extra care when placing the expander by cementing it to your back molars (for a fixed expander) or adjusting the clips (for a removable expander). After your palate expander has been properly fitted, your orthodontist will provide instructions on how and how often to activate the appliance as well as tips and tricks for proper home care.

Put Your Smile Into Place With Clauss Orthodontics

At Clauss Orthodontics, we want to provide the proper information and treatment to help you achieve the perfect smile. Our team of trained professionals takes the time and care to ensure each patient’s orthodontic journey leads to a bright new smile. If you or someone you love is considering orthodontic treatment, stop by our offices in Watertown and Middlebury. If you have any more questions, get in touch to schedule your free consultation with Dr. Clauss today!