Everything You Need to Know About Palatal Expanders

When you think of Orthodontic treatment, you’re probably thinking about things like braces or Invisalign. You’re thinking of after-school ortho visits, avoiding gummy bears and rubber bands. 

And hey, you’re right! At Westfall Orthodontics, Dr. Chad Westfall is a braces ace, and we do all of that! Well, maybe not the avoiding gummy bears part (sorry, Dr. Chad!). 

 But one thing you may not think of when you think of Orthodontics is palatal expanders. Heck, chances are you’ve never heard of one before! 

Palatal expanders are a more obscure tool in the orthodontist’s tool box. They may be less common than braces or Invisalign, but there’s no doubt that if you or your child falls into a set of conditions we’ll outline below, they sure become essential! 

So please, read on. We’ve put together some info on everything you need to know about palatal expanders – what they are, why they’re used, and how to have a great experience with your palatal expanders. Let’s get started! 

What Do Palatal Expanders Do? 

Here at Westfall 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 called a malocclusion), it might be because the top of your mouth is too small 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. Issues like crowding and crossbite from a narrow palate can lead to secondary disorders such as tension headaches and TMJ

Before puberty, the bones of the palate aren’t yet fully developed. Intervention is critical in this early stage of development, as after the bones of the palate conjoin, palatal expanders become much less effective. During this crucial period, your orthodontist can identify if your child is on track to wind up with a narrow palate. 

The body is a remarkable mechanism, and as the action of the expanders gently separates your child’s palate, the body responds by growing new bones! This allows Dr. Westfall to guide the development of your child’s maxillofacial structure.  

How do they work? 

Dr. Westfall will fit your child’s mouth with a unique adjustable tool. This will exert a constant pressure that gently broadens the upper jaw for three to six months, giving your teeth more space to shift in line.  

Dr. Westfall will equip you with a tool that fits the expander, which can be used to adjust the tension manually. That’s right; this is an active piece of equipment! But don’t worry, they’re simple to use, and the process is entirely painless and straightforward. 

Are they all the same?

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

  • Removable Expanders: appropriate for milder cases, these work similarly to a retainer, allowing the expander to be removed for meals, sports, etc. 
  • Fixed Expanders: More complex cases require a fixed expander. This consists of metal bands attached to two of your top back teeth. These expanders include a metal screw that you can adjust on the schedule provided for you. 

Everything You Need to Know About Palatal ExpandersWestfall Orthodontics has you covered! 

We hope we’ve been able to answer some of your questions surrounding palatal expanders and how they work. But chances are, you may have one or two we haven’t thought of. That’s great! 

Your consultation is 100% free of charge, and at Westfall Orthodontics, we’re passionate about leaving you confident and in control of your family’s orthodontic health. 

So give us a call today, and we’ll get your child back on the straight-and-narrow of orthodontic health.