A palatal expander is a customized appliance used to treat a misalignment of teeth by moving teeth and expanding the upper jaw in order to create more space in a child’s mouth. The process of palatal expansion is not difficult when orthodontic treatment is started at an early age because children’s growth plates are not yet fully formed. Therefore the palate (two halves of the upper jaw) is relatively easy to widen.
In order to widen the palate, Dr. Marshall uses a fixed palatal expander. The palatel expander attaches to the upper back teeth and has a self-activating spring. As the jaw expands, new bone fills in between the two halves of the palate therefore gradually and gently widening the palate. This process may take a few weeks or a few months depending on the amount of expansion required and does not require any parental effort.
There are three situations in which palatal expanders are most often required:
A crossbite is a type of tooth misalignment where one or more of the top teeth bite inside of the lower teeth. This happens when the child’s jaw is too narrow.
Crowding happens when there is not enough space for all the permanent teeth to fit normally within a child’s jaw. An expander can help widen the palate so the crowding is corrected.
An impacted tooth is a tooth which has been blocked from breaking through the gum. Widening the palate can allow the impacted tooth to erupt into proper positioning on its own.
Remember palatal expansion is easiest when orthodontic treatment is started at an early age. We recommend having an orthodontic evaluation no later than age 7.