What is a palatal expander? A palatal expander is an orthodontic device that is either permanently or temporarily placed into the upper arch and will gradually widen it enough to make room for the teeth. Children who have crowded teeth and narrow dental arches may need a palatal expander. Even though braces are usually placed on most children ages 12 to 13 or older, the palatal expander is often used on children as young as eight, before the upper jaw rigidly attaches to the rest of the skull. By the time most children reach their teen years, the palatal expander cannot be used as effectively.
A palatal expander is used for about four to six months on children whose upper arch is undesirably narrow, and does not allow enough room for their teeth to come in straight. After the device is inserted, either the parent or the orthodontist will expand the palate once or twice a day. To activate the expander, you will need to insert the metal, toothpick-shaped key into a keyhole located inside the expander. You then rotate the key towards the back of the child’s throat.
After about a week, gaps should be visible between the front teeth, which is a good sign that the jaw is expanding. The orthodontist will regularly check on the progress of the palatal expander, and will stop the expansion when there is enough space for the teeth to come in. At this point, the palatal expander will stay passively in the mouth for a few months to allow the jaw to heal in the new position. Any gap between the front teeth will now quickly close.
It is very important to keep the palatal expander clean by brushing it along with your teeth at night, and rinsing with water after drinking soda or juice.
If you have any questions about palatal expanders, or any other orthodontic topic, please don’t hesitate to contact us. At Horner Barrow Orthodontics, we appreciate the trust you place in us!