Everything You Need to Know About Palatal Expanders

Expanding one’s palate means trying different kinds of cuisines, right? Well, not exactly. But, a palate expander can definitely help you enjoy a wide variety of foods. Champlain Orthodontics has locations convenient to both the Williston and St. Albans areas. Dr. Ryan and Dr. Eaton want to give you everything you need to know about palatal expanders. Once you’ve got that out of the way, you can return to expanding your palate (of food, that is). 

What if you’re unhappy with your smile? Suppose you’re a person dissatisfied by the way your teeth look. Someone in that situation might not feel like smiling very often. If you have a narrow jaw, you may also suffer from a crossbite or crowded teeth. When left untreated for too long, conditions like these can become problematic for your overall health. 

To rectify a narrow jaw, our team uses an instrument called a palatal expander. It widens a narrow jaw to permit teeth to rest in their proper positions. Continue reading to find out how a palatal expander could help you! 

When Might We Use a Palatal Expander? 

Our team only recommends treatment options that a client needs. Therefore, we will only suggest a palate expander if it will solve the problem. To find out who needs a palate expander, Dr. Eaton and Dr. Ryan begin by scanning your upper jaw. Think of it like a blueprint of your teeth – it allows us to see the smallest contours of your mouth. Everyone’s mouth is different. So, we must tailor the palate expander to be unique. Just like our clients! 

What is the Function of a Palatal Expander?

Ever had peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth? Then you’re familiar with the “palate.” If the right and left sides of your palate taper too much, your teeth won’t have as much room to erupt and grow. The size of your palate must be proportional to the size of your teeth. And not only that, a wide palate compliments the symmetry of your face. 

Should we determine that you need a palate expander, one of our doctors will apply it to the roof of your mouth. The expander exerts pressure on the palate via a key in the center of the device. Over time, the pressure eases the sides of the palate apart. As you wear the expander, the sides of your palate will gradually shift into a more even, symmetrical position. 

Two Kinds of Palatal Expanders

No two mouths are exactly the same. So our team rejects the “one size fits all” approach. That’s why we offer different options for palatal expanders. Some expanders can be taken out as needed. Others remain attached until Dr. Eaton and Dr. Ryan remove them. Each expander has its own advantages. Review the two options, and we’ll gladly discuss your questions. 

Fixed Palate Expander

You may hear this option referred to as the rapid palate expander (RPE). It works via a system of bands affixed to the molars. The bands connect at the center, which lies at the roof of the mouth. A screw in the middle holds the entire device together. Remember the key we mentioned previously? If our team opts for this type of expander, we will provide you with such a  key. At that time, you will receive guidance on when and how to use the key. 

Removable Palate Expander

What about less severe jaw irregularities? For those that might not require the more permanent fixed expander, the doctors could suggest a removable option. The removable palate expander resembles a clear aligner with a screw in the center. We suggest that clients wear these for twenty-four hours every day. With that said, removable expanders do not necessarily extend the duration of treatment. Moreover, unlike their fixed counterparts, removable expanders do not require tightening. 

Everything You Need to Know About Palatal ExpandersConditions for a Palatal Expander

By now, you understand that the purpose of a palatal expander is to widen a narrow upper jaw. But you may be wondering about what advantages the expander provides. Beyond beautifying a smile, how can a palatal expander benefit someone? 

What is Malocclusion?

The most obvious benefit of palatal expanders is the elimination of malocclusion. Malocclusion refers to the misforming or misaligning of the teeth and/or jaw. Malocclusions can include: 

  • Open bite: the top and bottom teeth do not overlap correctly 
  • Crowded teeth: teeth are too close together, resulting in too little space
  • Overbite: the top teeth reach too far below the bottom teeth
  • Underbite: the lower jaw sets in front of the upper jaw when the mouth is closed
  • Crossbite: parts of the lower and upper teeth intersect

What Happens if Malocclusion isn’t Treated? 

If left untreated, an improperly shaped bite can lead to more problematic issues. Malocclusions can make it hard to chew food, creating a choking hazard. Furthermore, asymmetry in the jaw often leads to painful headaches. Those afflicted by malocclusion have difficulty brushing and flossing their teeth. Consequently, they are more likely to develop plaque, cavities, tooth decay and gum disease.

But the consequences don’t end there. A link exists between malocclusions and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing starts and stops. It may manifest as snoring, but it adversely affects a person’s rest. Those with sleep apnea may report feeling tired, even after getting a full 8 hours of sleep. Even worse, malocclusions can have negative psychological effects on adolescents

Everything You Need to Know About Palatal Expanders

Where to Go from Here? Champlain Orthodontics, of Course!

Malocclusions can have several causes. These might include thumbsucking or using a pacifier for too long. Lost, extra, or uneven teeth can also cause malocclusions. But now, you understand that palatal expanders alleviate problems caused by a narrow upper jaw. You also know about the different kinds of palatal expanders and the advantages that each one offers. 

Our offices in St. Albans and Williston don’t take the implementation of palatal expanders lightly. We believe in a client-first approach to orthodontic intervention. Dr. Ryan and Dr. Eaton will only suggest legitimate treatment options that a client needs. Anything else would be less than optimal. 

Still have questions about palatal expanders? Visit us to get the answers you need!