Everything You Need to Know About Palatal Expanders

You’re here because you’re curious about palatal expanders. You want to know what they are for and why you (or someone you love) might need one. You’re curious about why Dr. Lee might recommend a palatal expander for you. Well, you’re in luck! Read further to find out everything you need to know about palatal expanders. 

What if you don’t like your grin? Suppose you’re a person underwhelmed by the way your teeth look. Someone in that situation might be disinclined to smile. If you have a narrow jaw, you may also suffer from crowded teeth or a crossbite. If you go too long without treatment, conditions like these can wear down your overall health. 

To mend a narrow jaw, our team uses an instrument called a palatal expander. It widens a narrow jaw to permit teeth to reset into appropriate positions. Continue reading to find out how a palatal expander could help you! 

What Specific Problems Does the Expander Solve?

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. Other than beautifying a smile, how can a palatal expander benefit someone? 

Malocclusion Defined

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 Can Happen if You Don’t Seek Treatment

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 fatigued, even after getting a full 8 hours of sleep. Even worse, malocclusions can have negative psychological effects on adolescents

When Would You Need 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 determine who needs a palate expander, Dr. Lee begins 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! 

How Does an Expander Work?

Ever had peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth? You’re ahead of the curve! Because 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 affix it to the top of your mouth. The expander exerts pressure on the palate through 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 move into a more even, symmetrical position. 

Everything You Need to Know About Palatal Expanders

What Type of Expander is Right for You?

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. Lee removes 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 is composed of a system of bands fastened 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 abnormalities? For those that might not require the more permanent fixed expander, our doctors could suggest a removable option. The removable palate expander resembles a clear aligner with a screw in the center. We prefer 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 Expanders

What Should You Do Now?

Malocclusions can have a variety of causes. These might include thumbsucking or using a pacifier for too long. Missing, excess, or uneven teeth can also contribute to 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. 

Now that you’ve read everything you need to know about palatal expanders, what happens next? Our locations in Oxnard and Santa Paula can accommodate all of your requests and concerns. 
Still need more info about palatal expanders? Click here to schedule a free consult!