Palatal Expanders

There are several reasons why Dr. Martin might suggest a palatal expander for your child. The most frequent reason is a skeletal or dental imbalance in width between the upper and lower jaws. Normally, the upper teeth should cover all of the bottom ones. With some patients, the upper teeth lie inside the bottom one resulting in a crossbite.

A crossbite can be located between the upper and lower front and/or back teeth. When the crossbite is combined with a shift of the jaw on closure, this may lead to asymmetrical growth of the jaws and potentially discomfort with the jaw joint in the future. Dr. Martin might also suggest a palatal expander to improve the breathing, as this treatment as been shown to enlarge the upper airways.

Although it may vary from patient to patient, most patients usually feel a very slight pressure that is usually not considered painful. As you activate the appliance by turning the expansion screw with a key, a space may develop between the two upper front teeth. Don’t worry! That space is the sign of success, indicating that the appliance is working. In most cases, the space will close naturally with time.

Besides the very light tooth discomfort associated with the palate expander, you can expect a short adjustment period. During this adjustment period, your child may have more saliva than usual and slight speech impairment such as a lisp. The more they talk, the faster their tongue is going to get accustomed to the appliance – and the lisp will go away.

Depending on the age of the patient, Dr. Martin will decide to proceed with a removable or fixed (glued) palatal expander. Removable palate expanders are more flexible and not rigid enough to support the forces needed to correct skeletal problems in older children. The fixed expander, which is completely built-in metal, is better suited for older children.

If you are given a removable palatal expander, you will ask to wear it 24 hours a day — except for eating, brushing and flossing, and playing sports. In most instances, you will be asked to activate the expansion screw with a key twice a week.

Complete correction usually takes several months, and then you will be asked to wear your appliance as a retainer only. Since this appliance is mainly made of plastic, you’ll be able to choose between more than 40 different colors or designs!

If you are fitted with a fixed (glued) palatal expander, you won’t be able to remove it for 4-6 months. You’ll be asked to activate the expansion screw with a key once a day until your next appointment. Complete correction usually takes four weeks, and then the appliance will be left in your mouth for a period of 4-6 months to allow your teeth and jaws to settle in their new position.

Don’t forget to brush your appliance at least two or three times a day while you brush your teeth. An Oral B mouth rinse can help dislodge the food particles trapped under your appliance, keeping your gums healthy and your teeth cavity-free.

If you are experiencing any significant discomfort during the wear or activation of your appliance, please stop activating or wearing the appliance and contact our office for an appointment.

If you forget to activate the appliance, do not try to catch up by doing more activation than indicated. We will simply add the missed activation at the end of treatment. This can result in pain or a poor-fitting appliance. When in doubt, please contact our office so we can schedule an appointment.