In orthodontics, alignment is the gateway to a beautiful smile. Whether you’re beginning your oral health journey or close to the final stages of treatment, everyone deserves personalized and safe care. At Dillehay Orthodontics, we believe everyone should have access to great oral healthcare, which begins with information. The more a patient knows, the more options become available. Dr. Ken and Dr. JK want to give you all the information you need to get the best treatment. Today we want to share the advantages of using a palatal expander and how they can help you achieve a new smile.
What is a palatal expander?
A palatal expander is an orthodontic appliance that widens the upper jaw. A palatal expander can work in a couple of different ways:
Fixed Palatal Expander
The fixed palatal expander, also called the rapid palatal expander (RPE), is a system of bands attached to corresponding back molars. Fixed palatal expanders connect high in the center of the roof of the mouth with a screw and come with a key. Since your palate comprises two bones, each half of the expander is connected to each side. When you turn the key to crank the device, the space between your palate bones widens a little. Your orthodontist will give you a special key with instructions on how and when to use it to rotate the screw, maintaining adequate pressure for mouth expansion.
Removable Palatal Expander
Removable palatal expanders are a great option for patients who only need minor jaw corrections. They are removable appliances that look similar to a clear aligner tray with a screw in the center. If removable palatal expanders are your preference, they should be worn twenty-four hours a day. However, it does not require a longer treatment time. Removable palatal expanders don’t always require daily screw tightening like permanent appliances.
What does it fix?
As stated, palatal expanders primarily function to create space along the jawline. Patients who want to get a head start on potential spacing issues should consider palatal expanders. They have proven to help patients avoid serious dental conditions such as:
Crossbite – A crossbite often occurs because the upper jaw is too narrow to fit properly with the lower jaw. This causes some bottom teeth to bite outside the top teeth. While patients can have an anterior or posterior crossbite, a palatal expander is typically needed to fix a posterior crossbite.
Severe Crowding – Severe crowding is when most anterior teeth in the upper or lower jaw overlap. In addition to rotations and overlapping, teeth crowding can be categorized by the specific amount of overcrowding. A palatal expander can widen the jaw to fit the permanent teeth, which minimizes future crowding and prevents the need for tooth extractions.
Impacted Teeth – Other teeth can block a permanent tooth’s path, stopping it from erupting. When the tooth gets stuck beneath the bone or tissue, it’s called an impacted tooth. This is usually seen with canine teeth (eyeteeth). A palatal expander can help make enough space for the impacted tooth to erupt without needing more invasive intervention.
Sleep Apnea – Besides crowding issues, palatal expanders can help ease sleep apnea symptoms. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that interrupts your breathing patterns while you sleep. By realigning your jaw, palatal expanders help open up the airways to the patient’s breathing passage to allow better, more consistent sleeping cycles.
What makes a good candidate?
Palatal expanders are more effective for younger patients as their bones haven’t quite developed yet, making it easier to move the jaw. Before you reach puberty, your bones are still growing and forming, so the earlier you’re fitted for your palatal expanders, the better. The widening of the jawbone helps prevent serious oral conditions that can result in issues such as tooth decay and even oral surgery.
Palatal expanders are more common among kids, but adults can also benefit from them. The treatment will look different for an adult than it would for a child and will generally take longer. Since the jaw is fully extended, all your adult teeth have already grown in and set in place. Special techniques may be needed to alter the jaw in adult patients, including implants or surgical options.
Does it hurt?
Like most orthodontic treatments, It is not uncommon for patients to feel discomfort during their first week with expanders. You’ll likely notice a bit of pressure on the roof of your mouth and around other areas of your face. Palatal expanders may take some time to get used to as your tongue rests against the expander. While it may take some adjustments, most patients get into a routine after about a week.
How do I know if they’re right for me?
If you or someone you know is considering palatal expanders or any other orthodontic treatment, please give us a call. Our team of trained experts is standing by to give you personalized care for your ortho journey. Every patient requires an individual health plan to get the most out of treatment. Our goal is to create happy, healthy smiles across the greater Wichita area.
Align your smile with Dillehay Orthodontics
Our team here at Dillehay Orthodontics is dedicated to providing excellent orthodontic care in an open and friendly office environment. We are proud to provide exceptional orthodontic care for the people of Wichita and surrounding areas for more than a half-century. Our practice features the most updated treatment techniques and equipment available in orthodontics today. With two locations in Wichita and one in Derby, you’re just a step away from an award-winning smile!