Palate expanders are also called orthodontic expanders or palatal expanders. They are orthodontic appliances designed to widen the upper jaw. Custom-made for each patient, palate expanders create room for adult teeth to erupt. In other cases, a palate expander is recommended as part of early orthodontic treatment, to correct a misaligned jaw. Most parents will not notice a difference in their child’s facial appearance after wearing a palate expander. Others may report that their child’s cheekbones seem higher, or their smile seems wider. However, given that children are still growing and developing, it’s difficult to ascertain whether a palate expander as opposed to natural growth is responsible for any change in appearance.
What Does a Palate Expander Do?
If your child has a narrow jaw, there may be insufficient room for the teeth to align properly. This results in crowded, overlapping, or crooked teeth. Narrow jaws can also contribute to impacted teeth. A palate expander, often worn for 3-12 months helps to widen the upper jaw so that permanent teeth have enough room to erupt.
Palate expanders also help to correct crossbites in children. If your child’s upper teeth fit inside the lower teeth, your child has a crossbite. Palate expanders increase the size of the palate (roof of the mouth) which then widens the jaw and allows the top teeth to sit outside of the lower teeth.
Childhood is the ideal time for widening the upper arch of the teeth because the jaw, teeth, and mouths are still growing and developing. They have not settled into their permanent position, so they can be easily expanded. Creating enough space for teeth can help to expedite orthodontic treatment later in life. It can also prevent the need for tooth extraction.
Is a Palate Expander Necessary?
If your child has inherited a narrow jaw, then a palate expander is necessary. Although orthodontic treatments such as braces or Invisalign can align crooked teeth, if your child’s teeth are overlapping due to crowding, some of the teeth may need to be extracted.
Crowded teeth may make proper brushing and flossing more difficult. As a result, plaque can build up leading to conditions such as tooth decay (cavities), infected teeth, and gum disease. A palate expander helps to create the necessary space to avoid these risks.
Does a Palate Expander Hurt?
Palate expanders don’t hurt, but it can take time for your child to adjust to wearing one. Because the palate expander will be custom-made to fit snugly in the roof of your child’s mouth, they don’t cause pain. However, as the expansion progresses, your child may experience the sensation of pressure. Fortunately, the palate and jaws are extremely flexible in children, so significant discomfort from a palate expander is rare.
Benefits of Palate Expanders
Expanding your child’s upper jaw has numerous potential benefits including:
- Creating enough space for adult teeth to erupt
- Preventing crowded, overlapping teeth
- Improving breathing ability
- Correct jaw misalignments
- Prevent future problems with TMJ disorders
- Prevent unusual wear and tear on the teeth
- Prevent traumatic bites (chipping teeth due to misalignments, crowding)
- Prevent impacted teeth
- Potentially widen your child’s smile
Schedule an Orthodontic Appointment By Your Child’s 7th Birthday
The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that all children see an orthodontist by the time they turn 7 years old. Known as early orthodontics, treatments can shorten future treatment times, and prevent myriad problems from developing. To schedule an orthodontic consultation for your child in Las Cruces, call 575-640-3367 or request an appointment online, and our team will contact you to confirm a convenient date and time.