According to the World Health Organization, almost half of the global population neglects their oral healthcare. However, it’s important that you invest in orthodontics to prevent jaw pain, TMJ, issues with your teeth, and more.
A palate expander is one way you can keep your mouth and jaw healthy. Here, we’re going to talk about how palate expanders work and what their benefits are. Read on for a complete run-down of these common orthodontic devices.
What Is a Palate Expander?
Your ‘palate’ is the roof of your mouth. A palate expander is therefore an orthodontic tool that widens the roof of your mouth. Its purpose is to make your jaw wider so that you have healthier tooth and jaw placement.
The appliance will be made from plastic or metal. It will be specially made to fit your specific mouth. This means that you’ll always have the perfect fit so that it works while not being too uncomfortable.
The wires of the expander wrap around your back teeth. They meet on the expander itself. This means that the device isn’t noticeable to others around you unless they look very closely at your mouth.
Types of Palate Expanders
A rapid palate expander isn’t removable and attaches to your upper teeth. This is the most common type of expander and widens the jaw by about 0.5 mm daily. It does this with a small key that you turn a couple of times a day which widens the expander.
Removable palate expanders are common for those who only need slight widening. They’re basically retainers made from chrome rather than acrylic. You can take them out when you’re eating and, in some cases, may only need to wear the device at night.
Some teens and adults will also get palate expanders that are supported by implants. These are usually not for younger children because it requires a slightly more invasive surgical procedure. You get 4 small dental implants that hold the expander in place to apply constant direct pressure to your upper jaw.
How Do Palate Expanders Work?
The job of a palate expander is to slowly apply pressure to your jaw and widen it over time. You will be given a small key to turn the expander once or twice a day. If you’re getting the expander for your child, you will turn it for them, too.
The roof of your mouth is made up of two bones, and one side of the expander is connected to each of them. Every time the expander is wound with the key, the space between the two bones gets infinitesimally bigger.
Your experienced orthodontist will show you how to do this safely and effectively.
Make sure that you follow instructions extremely carefully. If you don’t turn the key enough, treatment will take longer and be ineffective. If you turn it too much, you will seriously hurt yourself and potentially cause damage to your jaw and teeth.
Who Gets Palate Expanders?
Palate expanders are most effective for children and teens. This is because the bones in your palate don’t fully fuse together until you’re an adult. Expanding the palate is a fast and easy process for young people, and it can help treat dental problems before they have the chance to become bigger issues down the road.
Some treatable issues include:
- Overcrowded teeth
- Overlapping teeth
- Crooked teeth
- Open bites
- Tooth impaction (when teeth are formed below the jaw but have no space to break through the gums due to overcrowding)
- Jaw pain
- Difficulty speaking
The length of your palate expander treatment will depend on what you need to treat and how old you are. A child with mild issues may only need it for a few weeks while a teen with moderate problems needs it for a few months. Some adults will wear it for up to a year, though this isn’t always the case.
Note that palate expanders are very rarely used on adults. However, it is a possibility in select situations.
What Are the Benefits?
When a palate expander widens your jaw, it makes more space for your teeth. They’ll fit together more evenly and comfortably. You won’t be subject to toothaches because of overlapping teeth, impaction, or crossbiting.
This also makes your teeth look better. You’ll be more confident in your smile. In a world where over half of Americans are insecure about their teeth, this can boost your mental health greatly.
Similarly, better-spaced teeth and a stronger jaw will also make your lips fit together better. You’ll take more pride in your appearance. You will also have an easier time speaking and chewing.
Palate expanders can also have positive impacts for those with obstructive sleep apnea. It opens air pathways so your breathing does not become shallow or labored at night. This is useful for both children and adults looking to unblock their airways.
What to Expect When Getting a Palate Expander
You will likely need two appointments to get your palate expander. The first will be to give the orthodontist an impression of your bite. They can have the impression sent in so that a custom-fitting device is accurately made.
A couple of weeks later, you’ll go to a second appointment to get the palate expander put into your mouth. The process is simple but will vary slightly depending on the type of expander you need. Make sure to discuss this with your orthodontist at the first appointment so you know what will happen.
Once it’s in your mouth, you’ll notice some pressure in your teeth and jaw. The pressure will decrease over time, and it won’t feel so bulky or uncomfortable after a few days. You should just eat soft foods while getting used to it and work your way back to normal.
Take Care of Your Smile
Now that you know the basics of using a palate expander, it’s time to discuss whether you need one with an orthodontist. Sencak is committed to helping people get healthier bites, teeth, and smiles.
Our experts are committed to assessing your mouth for free, determining your needs, and communicating with you about possible treatment plans. Find your office today to schedule your first visit for free!