Everything You Need to Know About Palatal Expanders

When it comes to orthodontics, if you’re anything like most people, you’re probably thinking about braces. That makes sense! Did you know that over 4 million people in the United States get braces every year? 

It’s true! But did you also know that sometimes your doctor will recommend a palatal expander for your child or teen?

The fact is, most people haven’t even heard of palatal expanders, let alone what they’re for, how they work, or any of the other details regarding this fascinating piece of technology. Luckily, Dr. Smith, Dr. Heymann, and Dr. Skillestad are the best of the best (at least, we sure think so!), and they’ve been kind enough to sit down with us and go over everything you need to know about palatal expanders. 

What Do Palatal Expanders Do? 

Here at Smith & Heymann Orthodontics, we see patients with many different orthodontic conditions. When you come in with crowded teeth (teeth competing for space in the mouth) or a crossbite (a form of misalignment where the top teeth sit on the inside of the bottom teeth), it might be because the top of your mouth is too narrow for all of your adult teeth to grow correctly. This is known as a narrow palate, the condition palatal expanders treat!  

Just like it sounds, a narrow palate means there isn’t adequate room in the roof of the mouth for your teeth to align accurately. 

Before puberty, the bones of the palate aren’t yet fully developed. Intervention is critical in this early stage of development. After the two bones of the palate merge with growth, and the midpalatal suture closes, palatal expanders become much less effective. During this crucial period, your orthodontist can identify if your child can benefit from a palatal expander. 

The body is pretty remarkable, and as an expander gently separates your child’s palate, the body responds by growing new bone along the midpalatal suture! 

How do they work? 

Dr. Smith, Heymann, or Skillestad will scan your child’s mouth and design a custom expander just for them! This will exert a constant pressure that gently broadens the upper jaw for three to six months, giving your teeth more space to align, and correcting any crossbites.  

Are they all the same?

Just like braces, there are different varieties of palatal expanders, each of which is appropriate for a different situation. Our doctors will determine the best type for you or your child. These include: 

  • Quad Helix/W-arch Expanders: These expanders slowly expand the palate without any work needed by the patient at home! This is our most commonly used expander, and is low-profile on the roof of the mouth. 
  • Rapid Palatal Expanders: On occasion, a different expander type is used that requires an extra tool. You or your child actually activate these expanders at home, typically on a daily basis. These are great tools for severely narrow palates in kids and young teens with a crossbite!

Everything You Need to Know About Palatal Expanders

More Questions? Give us a call? 

Thanks for taking the time to read up about palatal expanders. We sure appreciate it! Nothing makes the team here at Smith & Heymann happier than helping our community unlock their best smiles, whether that’s in Durham, Chapel Hill, Roxboro, or Mebane!

Call us anytime, or come on in for your free consultation! We look forward to seeing you!