The palate is the roof of the mouth that is part of your upper jaw. A palate that is too narrow can cause issues with the bite, alignment, or even breathing. This treatment is very common.
Issues that can be treated with a palate expander include
- Posterior crossbite, in which a back upper tooth or teeth bite inside the lower back teeth
- Tooth crowding, in which the teeth erupt too close together
- Impaction, caused by tooth crowding, can prevent new teeth from erupting into the mouth
- Breathing, in situations in which air passages are restricted from a high palate and narrow arch
How does a palatal expander work?
The palate and the upper arch (collectively called the maxilla) are composed of two bones that come together in the middle of the palate but are not connected during childhood. After puberty, this midline suture fuses together, which is why palatal development is easier to accomplish with pediatric patients.
A palatal expander widens the maxilla by using a customized appliance attached to the upper molars. A small screw device is in the middle of the palatal expander, which you or your child will adjust once or twice a day using a specialized key. The frequency and turns of the device are very small and will be determined by your orthodontist beforehand. Each time the palatal expander is adjusted, slight pressure is placed on the upper molars, which will expand, or widen, the palate over time by stimulating growth at the midline suture. The pressure is gentle enough for many patients not to feel any pain, although slight discomfort for a few minutes a day is normal. As the palate widens, a gap may develop between the two front teeth. This gap usually closes on its own, but braces can also correct the spacing of the teeth.
Although the palate is typically expanded within 2–3 weeks, the appliance will need to be worn for several months more to secure the new expansion and to prevent regression.
Learn More About Palatal Expanders
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