Dental problems like malocclusions can involve misaligned teeth, jaws, or a combination of issues that affect 15% of all Americans. If a malocclusion is severe enough, it can lead to increased pain and tooth decay, along with problems chewing and speaking normally. 

Treatments like a palate expander are essential in bringing everything back into alignment. But how do palate expanders work and what can you expect during treatment? Taking the mystery out of this effective orthodontic treatment makes it much less overwhelming overall.

Keep reading this guide to learn everything you need to know about palate expanders.

What Is a Palate Expander?

A palate expander, also known as a palatal or orthodontic expander, is an oral device that widens your upper jaw if it’s too narrow. It fits into the roof of the mouth and moves both halves of your jawbones apart over time.

Are Palate Expanders for Adults or Children?

While palate expanders are more common in children, they’re very effective for adults too.

With children, the jawbones are still developing and forming their shape. For these reasons, an orthodontist usually recommends that children begin wearing palate expanders by the time they’re 7 to 8 years old.

This reduces the chances of your child needing further invasive procedures later on. Since children have more pliable bones, you can start seeing results quickly, usually within 2 to 3 months.

However, since adults already have strong bones that are fully developed, it can take up to a year to get the results you’re looking for.

How Do Palate Expanders Work?

The palate or roof of your mouth has two separate sides connected by a part in the middle known as a “suture”. This is essentially where both sides of your palate fuse early on in your life.

An expander applies a steady, gentle force to each side of the palate. Eventually, this pushes each half of your palate apart. As the palate widens, new bones will regenerate to fill in the space the widening creates.

Palate expanders typically attach to the top back molars on either side of your jaw. Usually, these halves are connected by a screw which has a key.

This key turns the screw, allowing you to rotate it on a specific schedule. This puts continuous pressure on both sides of the jaw. Eventually, this causes them to widen and begin moving apart.

Palate expanders are custom-made for your individual needs.

Is Wearing a Palate Expander Painful?

It’s essential to remember that any new dental device, no matter what it is, can often cause minor discomfort until you get used to it.

Palate expanders can cause very slight discomfort after you make an adjustment. For example, some people feel mild tenderness, but you shouldn’t feel any severe pain.

Why Do You Need a Palate Expander?

A palate expander makes your jaw wider, creating more space for your teeth to fit. For these reasons, palate expanders can be useful for problems like:

  • Overlapping teeth
  • Crowded teeth
  • Crooked teeth
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Misaligned bites like overbite or underbite
  • Difficulty chewing

For crowded teeth, palate expanders can give you the space you need and make a difference between needing an extraction or not. In addition, since a palate expander can widen the jaw, it will give you a nice confident smile.

Palate expansion can also be helpful for both adults and children who have problems with obstructive sleep apnea.

Overall, you’ll need to find an experienced orthodontist to evaluate your dental health and make the appropriate treatment recommendations.

What Are the Different Types of Palate Expanders?

There are different types of palate expanders you can get, depending on your treatment needs. Your orthodontist will let you know which type of expander is best for your case.

The most common types of palate expanders to be aware of include:

Removeable Palate Expanders

Removeable palate expanders appear very similar to a retainer. However, it’s made of acrylic instead. Your orthodontist is more likely to recommend a removable palate expander if you only need to widen your jaw slightly. 

Removable palate expanders are also convenient since they can be removed while playing sports, eating, and for oral care like brushing and flossing.

Rapid Palate Expander

Rapid palate expanders attach to the back of your upper teeth to keep them stable. This type of expander has a screw in the middle which you’ll turn each day with a key.

The tension of a rapid palate expander allows it to widen your jaw by approximately 0.5 millimeters daily

Quad-Helix Expander

This expander doesn’t need any adjustments since it’s designed to expand on its own. It has four helix springs instead of a screw that gradually expands without needing any kind of manual adjustments.

How Do You Care For Your Teeth With a Palate Expander?

It’s critical to take extra care of your teeth and gums when you’re wearing a palate expander. You must also ensure you keep the expander clean and free of food, debris, and bacteria.

You’ll need to maintain a good oral hygiene routine by brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, particularly after meals. It’s also helpful to use mouthwash since it can get into the crevices of the expander.

You should also avoid hard, sticky, or chewy foods like nuts since they tend to stick on expanders and can cause damage.

Learn More About Your Orthodontic Treatment Options

Knowing more about how a palate expander works will help you feel more comfortable with orthodontic treatment options.

If you’re looking for an experienced orthodontic practice, you can turn to Sencak Orthodontics for all your dental care needs. We make sure we get to know each one of our patients and will treat you with compassion and respect.

We use the latest state-of-the-art technology and offer a variety of quality orthodontic dental services like palate expanders, Invisalign, metal braces, ceramic braces, and teeth whitening.

We strive to be the best orthodontist possible in your local area. We serve the areas of Cranberry, Zelienople, Robinson, and Avalon, PA, as well as Canfield, OH. 

Make sure to contact us today to find the office closest to you and schedule an appointment.