Will My Child Need a Palate Expander?

Does your child have a bad crossbite or a small jaw? If so, it may be necessary to get a palate expander. Palate expanders can fix issues with a bite and even shorten treatment times.

What Is a Palate Expander?

A palate expander is a device used to widen the upper jaw of a child over a period of several months. Our upper jaw develops as two distinct halves that fuse together after puberty, so palate expanders are typically only an option for children and adolescents. The palate expander is cemented, or otherwise attached, to molar teeth in the upper jaw, so it isn’t removed until after the jaw has been fully widened.

There are three main situations call for a palate expander:

  • Crossbites. When a child has a crossbite, the upper jaw is narrower than the lower jaw, causing the upper teeth to bite inside the lower teeth, instead of outside.
  • Crowding. If there isn’t enough room in a child’s mouth for adult teeth to come in, this is called crowding. The child’s mouth can often be widened using a palate expander to create extra space without having to pull teeth.
  • Impacted teeth. An impacted tooth, which is a tooth blocked from coming in by existing teeth, can be remedied by expanding the upper jaw to make room for it.

If your child is in need of orthodontic work, a palate expander can reduce the number of teeth needed to be pulled and shorten the amount of time they will be required to wear braces.

How Does a Palate Expander Work?

A palate expander is custom-made for your child and fits between the back molars in the upper jaw. There is a small screw that connects the two sections of the palate expander. Each day, the screw is turned a small amount with a key that pushes apart the two sides of expander, transferring the pressure to the upper jaw. This process is repeated until the orthodontist is satisfied with the amount of expansion obtained. After a few months with the expander in its final position, new bone will form in the roof of your child’s mouth, which further stabilizes the upper jaw.

How Long Do You Have to Wear a Palate Expander?

Typically, your child will wear a palate expander between six to nine months, after which the necessary expansion will be complete and the roof of your child’s mouth should be completely solidified with the new bone formation.

What Are the Side Effects?

After the palate expander is first installed, your child will have to adjust to the device as it will affect speaking and eating. Your child’s orthodontist will tell you what foods your child should avoid to prevent them from sticking to the expander. A child wearing a palate expander will most likely feel pressure and discomfort immediately after the key is turned to tighten the device. This discomfort will dissipate over time as the child’s mouth adjusts to the new positioning. You will also see a gap develop between your child’s two front teeth, which is a normal part of the widening process.

How Do You Clean a Palate Expander?

Your child’s palate expander should be brushed each time your child brushes his or her teeth. You may have to help your child clean the expander, and we can provide additional cleaning tools to help with this process.

What Results Can You Expect?

After the palate expander is removed and in most but not all cases, there should be enough room for the remaining permanent teeth to erupt. The expansion process will also reduce the amount of time braces need to be worn, or in some cases, may completely eliminate the need for braces.

Think your child may need a palate expander? Call or text for an evaluation: 754-529-8995

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