What is a Palate Expander?
An orthodontic palate expander is an appliance used to correct a maxillary (upper jaw) discrepancy. Usually it is used when the upper jaw is too narrow. At the initial evaluation for a child, our orthodontists will measure and examine the upper jaw width.
If a posterior crossbite (see below) or severe crowding exists, our orthodontists will prescribe a palate expander. When a crossbite is present it is essential that treatment begin soon in order to prevent jaw asymmetry as the child grows. Palate expanders are recommended in younger children that either haven’t, or just started, their pubertal growth spurt. Widening the upper jaw won’t work in adults, at least not without surgical intervention.
Does my Child Need a Palate Expander?
- Posterior Crossbite
- Anterior Crossbite
- Severe dental/tooth crowding
- Lower jaw asymmetry
- Narrow upper jaw
- Sleep Disordered Breathing
One of the most common reasons for an orthodontic palate expander is the presence of a crossbite. A crossbite is where one or more of the upper teeth are inside the lower teeth. Sometimes a crossbite is commonly referred to as a ‘scissor bite.’ Crossbites can lead to future problems such as jaw pain, facial asymmetry, and excessive tooth wear.
Palate expanders can sometimes be used to decrease the severity of dental crowding in a growing child. However, expanders will not be able to fully correct crowding. Any decrease in crowding observed from an expander is an ancillary benefit.
How does a Palate Expander Work?
A palate expander works by applying a force to the maxillary (upper jaw) bones. In a growing child, the upper jaw is made of two parts that can be manipulated with properly designed forces.
The two parts of the maxillary bones are loosely connected by the intermaxillary suture. As the child ages the suture hardens until it eventually disappears completely as an adult. When this happens the upper jaw effectively becomes a single unit, and a simple palate expander will not work anymore.
How Long Does a Palate Expander Stay in the Mouth?
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