What You Need to Know About Palatal Expanders

Needing your jaw widened with an orthodontic appliance can seem like a daunting experience. So, we’re here to tell you what you need to know about palatal expanders to help put you at ease. Our knowledgeable team at Wiesemann Orthodontics knows your treatment may require more than just straightening your teeth. We have years of experience straightening smiles for Bowling Green, Russellville, Portland, and White House area patients.

Facial asymmetry, caused by a narrow upper jaw or crossbite, is not just an aesthetic concern for some patients. It can also contribute to other oral and general health concerns like head and jaw pain or sleep apnea. Dr. Ryan Wiesemann can correct the shape of your upper jaw and alleviate both functional and aesthetic problems. They do this by utilizing the latest orthodontic treatment options, in this case, a palatal expander. Let’s look at precisely what palatal expanders are, how they work, and if this might be a good option for your orthodontic journey. 

What is a palatal expander?

The upper jaw grows in two separate pieces as your mouth matures to account for your growth. It isn’t until closer to puberty that the two halves connect together to form a solid supporting structure. Our skilled team can utilize this permeability to help provide your teeth space to grow and align your upper jaw with your lower jaw for optimum alignment and bite. In simple terms, this device can apply constant pressure to your upper jaw to widen it and grow the bone from the cartilage before the suture closes. 

The palatal expander is custom-made from Dr. Wiesemann’s digital impression of your upper jaw and teeth. This digital scan is sent to a lab, where the data is turned into a high-grade metal appliance that your orthodontist will install on the roof of your mouth. The device consists of two halves connected in the center by a screw that your orthodontist will instruct you to turn with a unique key on a specified schedule. This process takes time as it keeps pressure on both halves of the jaw bone, causing them to widen as intended. The appliance is typically left on for a short time after the desired results are achieved to allow time for the bone to get used to its new position.

Different Types of Palatal Expanders

Depending on the adjustments needed for your unique jaw, there are several different types of palate expanders. Some expanders are fixed, and some are removable, but all palatal expanders are custom-made for the perfect fit for your palate’s shape and size. Let’s take a look at some of the options in orthodontic expanders. 

Removable Palate Expander

If minor jaw correction is desired, you may best benefit from a removable option. There are many brands, but, in general, this appliance looks similar to a pink retainer with a screw in the center. It will need to be worn 24 hours a day but often does not require more prolonged treatment. 

Fixed Palate Expander

The fixed palate expander, most commonly known as the rapid palate expander (RPE), is a system of bands attached to corresponding back molars. The bands connect high in the center of the roof of the mouth with a screw. You will be given a special key with instructions on how and when to use it to rotate the screw, maintaining adequate pressure for mouth expansion.

Who Needs a Palatal Expander?

Palatal expanders are used to slowly expand the roof of the mouth and widen the upper jaw meaning anyone can require this specific orthodontic treatment. A narrow palate can lead to complications like jaw and head pain, tooth decay, gum disease, and even sleep apnea. While having a narrow jaw can affect tooth alignment, leading to impaction and broken teeth or even obstruction of permanent teeth that have yet to grow in. A palatal expander can correct and even prevent these problems.

Before puberty, your bones are still growing and forming, making them a bit softer than adult bones. This is also true for your jawbones and means this treatment is quicker and most effective when used during adolescence before adult teeth are entirely in place. This is not to say that adults can not benefit from the orthodontic treatment of palatal expanders, but you should expect a bit more discomfort and time to reach your desired results.

The Expectations

As with any procedure that will garner significant results like this, it does require work and commitment. While it may seem that this would be quite a painful experience, it isn’t more than minor pressure, and typically, that discomfort only lasts a few minutes after adjusting the screw. 

And, just as with braces, palatal expanders may take a little time to get used to as your tongue rests against the expander. This can make speaking, chewing, and swallowing seem a little off, but chances are, you are the only one that notices it, and you’ll get used to it in a few days. 

Orthodontic treatment with a palatal expander can often cause space to form between your upper front two teeth. This spacing is entirely normal, and the gap typically closes on its own.

It is essential to maintain proper oral hygiene during this treatment process. Brush and floss regularly and avoid eating chewy, sticky, or hard and crunchy foods to ensure the appliance is not compromised. 

The Alternatives

Sometimes, a palatal expander may not be the best option for you or your smile. In some cases, your orthodontist can recommend traditional braces. While in more severe occasions, we will recommend jaw surgery or the removal of impacted or crowded teeth. No matter your orthodontic situation, Wiesemann Orthodontics has a solution for you!

What You Need to Know About Palatal ExpandersWiden your options and your smile with Wiesemann Orthodontics!

We appreciate the trust you place in Wiesemann Orthodontics and will do anything in our power to ensure that your orthodontic treatment is a positive and comfortable experience. We are always available to answer any questions you might have about your smile, and we are here to listen to your concerns and needs. You can always check out our Facebook page to see if your question has been answered and to see what we have been up to lately!

Deciding to seek orthodontic treatment is an exciting step! If you are ready to see what might be the best route to your best smile, we would love to meet with you for a FREE consultation to get to know you better. At Wiesemann Orthodontics, we want your time with us to be a great experience, so we make orthodontics fun!