A palatal expander is an orthodontic appliance used to widen the upper jaw to make room for adult teeth. It, thus, reduces the need for tooth extraction and corrects problems like crowding or crossbites. It can also allow impacted teeth that are blocked by other teeth to emerge.
Types of Palatal Expanders
The Hyrax expander is probably the most common type. It is a fixed expander, which means it can’t be removed by the patient. It is made of stainless steel and consists of two halves with a keyhole in the middle. It is attached to the inside of the patient’s mouth by a pair of bands similar to those of braces that fit around the patient’s molars. The key is periodically used to gradually widen the expander and their palate or upper jaw.
The Haas expander looks like a retainer with a plastic or acrylic center. That part also has two halves and a keyhole. Removable expanders look like retainers with two halves. They are considered less effective than fixed expanders.
How is a Palatal Expander Used?
A palatal expander works by gradually pushing the growth plates of the palate apart. The growth plates are on the inner edges of the palate, and they don’t fuse until the patient is in their early or mid-teens. Consequently, orthodontists generally prefer to widen a patient’s jaw before they reach that age. An older patient who wants or needs to have their jaw widened will likely have to undergo surgery. Such patients may wear a palatal expander for several months to keep their jaw at its new width.
A patient whose palate hasn’t yet fused won’t need surgery; they just need the palatal expander. Our orthodontist will have it custom-made for them to ensure a perfect fit. If they are getting a fixed expander, our orthodontist will implant it in the patient’s mouth.
We often recommend that a parent or guardian do the turns for the patient. The patient should tilt their head back in a well-lit room so that the parent can get a good view of the expander. The parent then inserts the key into the keyhole and turns it from front to back for a specified number of times. The parent will usually have to widen the expander once or twice a day.
Schedule an Appointment Today
To learn more about how a palatal expander can benefit your child, set up a consultation at Petty, Bielik and Burke Orthodontics. With offices in Oak Lawn and Frankfort, we want to help you and your entire family achieve a beautiful smile, whether it requires braces, Invisalign® or other types of orthodontic appliances, like a palatal expander. Contact us today to book an appointment.