Toothy Questions: What is a Palatal Expander - Specialist Orthodontic Group : Specialist Orthodontic Group
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Toothy Questions: What is a Palatal Expander

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There are big benefits to early intervention in orthodontics. The most important one is that the younger the patient, the more flexible their teeth will be to change.

This is particularly helpful in cases of more severe alignment issues, as the younger the patient is, the more an orthodontist will be able to do to put the problem right.

One of the tools specialist orthodontists can use for younger patients is a palatal expander.  This is a similar device to a removable retainer, but instead of being used to move individual teeth, it’s used to gradually widen the upper jaw.

How does a palatal expander work?

If you hear the words ‘palatal expander’ at an orthodontist appointment for your child, don’t panic. The reason these tools are so useful for younger children is that their upper jaws are particularly malleable. The upper jaw develops in two halves, and the two halves don’t fully fuse together until after puberty.

If your orthodontist is concerned that your child isn’t going to have enough jaw space to avoid malocclusions such as crossbites, overcrowding or impacted teeth, they may recommend a palatal expander. This will encourage the two halves of the jaw to gently mover further apart over a period of three to six months.

What are the benefits?

There are a number of benefits to widening the jaw.

  • It reduces the risk of needing to have teeth removed
  • It reduces the risk of severe malocclusions developing
  • It shortens the overall time your child will need to wear a brace for
  • It can improve breathing

What does it look like?

A palatal expander is an orthodontic tool that is made to the exact shape of the child’s mouth. The device has two halves. Each one sits over the back two teeth at each side of the upper jaw. The two halves are connected in the middle with an adjustable screw that will very slowly push the two halves further apart.

Could your child benefit from a palatal expander?

If you have any concerns about your child’s risk of malocclusions, why not make an appointment to speak to a specialist orthodontist? They’ll be able to advise on whether early intervention, including a palatal expander, is likely to be helpful.