A palatal expander is exactly what it sounds like – an orthodontic device that expands the palate. The palate expander puts gentle outward pressure on the upper molars in the back of the jaw. Very gently and over time, the size of the palatal expander is made bigger and the palate and the upper jaw bone become wider.
Every child should have an orthodontic examination by the time they are 7, and part of this exam is so that the palate and the overall structure, size and shape of the oral cavity and nasal floor can be measured. Once the doctor has conducted this examination, an informed decision can be made about whether or not the child needs early treatment. The use of a palate expander can eliminate the need for tooth extraction later on, which may occur if the jaw is not big enough to accommodate all of the child’s adult teeth.
There is a limited window of time when the palatal expander can be used, and that is why the examination by age 7 is so important.
If the palate is not big enough, and if mid-palatal suture has fused, palatal expansion may require surgery. An oral-maxiofacial surgeon inserts an expander into the mid-palatal suture, the location where the two halves of the palate meet. These are normally separated, but if they fuse together, this is the only way to spread them apart.
The use of palatal expander appliances have become increasingly common as a good alternative to this surgery or the practice of extracting teeth before braces can be used to straighten teeth.
Palatal expanders also increase the width of the nasal floor as they expand the width of the upper arch of the jaw. For young patients, a palate expander increases airway volume and prevents sleep apnea.
If you have questions, please call the office at 631-427-8444 and we’ll be happy to set up a free consultation for your child, including a free examination.