When a patient’s jaw is too narrow, the teeth will become crowded. In some cases, an orthodontist may need to use a palatal expander in order to make the jaw large enough to accommodate all of the patient’s teeth. The arch can also be manually expanded to get rid of a crossbite.
The palatal expander is a metal appliance that is shaped in the contour of the arch. At the center of the expander is a small piece of metal into which a key is inserted to turn the expander, thus opening the palate. The expander attaches to the teeth via a number of metal bands, and it may be fixed or removable.
Your orthodontist will instruct you on the number of turns needed daily to achieve the desired movement within the targeted timeframe. The patient is responsible for following those instructions in order to meet the treatment goals. You will be able to tell that the expander is doing its job as a space develops between the front two teeth.
The patient often wears the expander prior to being fitted with braces. This helps to create room for the braces to then move the teeth into their correct positions.
In order for palatal expansion to be successful, the orthodontist must place the expander before the patient’s palate has fused. This usually takes place around age 14-16. If the palate has already fused in an older patient, surgery may be necessary to re-open it and allow the expander to do its work.
Initially, the patient will experience some adjustment to the expander. It affects speech and eating for the first few days until the patient gets accustomed to it. Patients will likely feel some pressure as the expander does its work, but generally there is not much discomfort associated with the appliance.
A palatal expander can help to address a narrow jaw, allowing for the proper re-positioning of the teeth. If you or your child suffer from severe crowding, this appliance may be a part of your orthodontic treatment plan.
Call Bunn Orthodontic Group today to talk to a member of our team about the benefits of palatal expansion and how the process works.