Palate Expanders: What They Are and What Issues They Fix

View of Palate expander inside a mouth

Remember about 20 years ago when no one got braces until middle school or high school? Well, the world of orthodontics has changed a lot since then, and now early orthodontic treatment around age 7 or 8 can be recommended to prevent more invasive treatments later on. Dr. Oldham says

“We always recommend kids come in around age 7 for their first orthodontic check up. We’re not looking to make their teeth perfectly straight at that time or immediately put on braces. We are checking to see: Are the teeth developing correctly? How many permanent teeth are there? Are the permanent teeth erupting in a different pattern than normal? If we start seeing deviations from normal growth behavior, that’s when we recommend a different form of treatment called “Phase 1”.

When you bring your child into Oldham Family Orthodontics in Kyle for a free consultation, Dr. Oldham will evaluate them to see if Phase I orthodontic treatment is the right next step. If it is, he may recommend what’s called a “palatal expander”. Here’s what you need to know about expanders in Kyle!

What is a Palatal Expander?

A palatal expander is designed to make the upper jaw wider and help to reduce crowding in abnormally narrow arches. The most effective time to use a palatal expander is before a patient hits puberty.

“As a specialty trained orthodontist, you don’t want to miss the window of opportunity you have to correct some of these issues,” says Dr. Oldham. “As kids mature, you become less able to influence the growth of their bones and unable to correct some dental-tooth eruption patterns. There’s a finite period of time to influence that.”

A palatal expander stretches the growth plate or suture in the middle of the palate and the two halves are pushed apart. When a palatal expander is used in Oldham Family Orthodontics in Kyle, it can prevent the need for tooth extraction and help patients also avoid impacted teeth. If patients are not seen within the appropriate time frame, they may develop abnormal wear or bite problems and possibly even need surgery later on in adulthood.

Does My Child Need◊ A Palatal Expander?

At your child’s orthodontic consultation in Kyle, Dr. Oldham will explain why a palatal expander may be the right type of treatment for your child. In some cases, expanders are recommended for a shorter amount of time than others. If your child has any of the following situations it’s likely that a palate expander will be helpful in orthodontic treatment:

  • Posterior Crossbite
  • Complete Crossbite
  • Underbite
  • Dental Crowding
  • Shifting Of The Lower Jaw to Close The Bite
  • Narrow Smile
  • Sleep Disordered Breathing
  • Difficulty Breathing

Some children need both a top and bottom expander, while others just need one or the other. An expander can be used in addition to Kyle/Buda braces. Young patients with lots of severe crowding or significant crossbites benefit greatly from a palate expander. When a palatal expander widens the jaw, it can help the patient achieve a beautiful wide smile and align the teeth and bite properly.

What Can I Expect When My Child Gets A Palate Expander?

Dr. Oldham will take measurements of your child’s mouth and place “spacers”, (small latex-free rubber bands) in between your child’s back teeth to make space in preparation for the expander. Once the expander is ready, Dr. Oldham will make sure the expander fits just right before placing it into the proper position and gluing it in place with special orthodontic adhesive.

Most expanders stay in for a minimum of 6 months, but some are necessary to leave in for up to a full year. Your child will experience some discomfort and pain the first three days after the expander is in place. For a few days it may be difficult for your child to eat much other than soft foods such as smoothies, bananas, yogurt, etc. After three days your child should be more used to the new sensations in their mouth and able to eat more easily. Even though it can be painful initially, achieving a proper bite for your child will prevent potential pain, jaw joint problems, fractured teeth and grinding.

How To Turn A Palatal Expander

View of Palate expander inside a mouth

Image from:

Your palatal expander will have a screw hole in the very middle that can be turned with a small key. Some parents are hesitant to take on the task of turning the key, but it’s necessary and important as part of the treatment plan. Dr. Oldham will tell you how often you need to turn the expander (every two days, every three days, etc) and for what length of time (one week, two weeks, etc.). It’s easiest to insert the key into the expander if your child is laying back on either a bed or couch with their chin up and their mouth wide open. You need to have good lighting so you can clearly see the screw hole.

Make sure the key is completely inserted into the keyhole before beginning. You’ll want to give the key a firm controlled push straight back. Push the key until the turn is complete and you can see the next hole. You should feel some resistance as the screw turns and the expander applies pressure to the teeth. Your child should not scream out in pain if this is done correctly, but they will feel some pressure at the roof of the mouth and their teeth. Complete the turn by removing the key in a down and backward motion. Repeat the process for all additional turns. Still confused? This YouTube clip will walk you through it!

Choose Oldham Family Orthodontics in Kyle

Whether you need Buda braces, Invisalign in Kyle, a palatal expander, or another form of orthodontic treatment in Kyle, you can expect quality care from board-certified Kyle orthodontist Dr. Maxwell Oldham. At our office we promise you’ll get nothing but the best from our orthodontist and staff.

“Wow, definitely glad I decided to bring my child here! They are so nice and accommodating, they have always been there for us since we got started with her braces. They even saw us on a late night before a vacation to make sure she was taken care of, Dr. O and his staff are truly one of a kind!” –Google Review from Tanya M.

We offer comprehensive orthodontic treatment to kids, teens, and adults in the Buda/Kyle area! Can’t make it during normal business time? We’re open for extended weeknight and weekend hours to fit your busy schedule!

If you live in Kyle, San Marcos, or Buda, orthodontics has never been easier.

We provide Kyle/Buda braces and Invisalign in Kyle to kids, teens, and adults.

Call us today at 512-256-7886 to schedule your FREE orthodontic consultation!