If your child needs a palate expander, it’s likely because your child has a narrow palate or crowded teeth, although it can also be used to correct crossbites. This device may be used by itself or it may be combined with braces. It is most commonly used on the upper palate, but it can be used on the lower jaw also.
Generally speaking, a palate expander is used for a few months, or even up to a year. Most commonly, palate expanders are used in children because their growth plates are not yet fused. But, they can be used in adults who have specialized cases.
Palateexpanders help provide a wider arch for all of the teeth to be able to grow in properly and not be crowded or impacted.
Some other reasons you might need to use palate expanders include for underbites, narrow smiles, breathing difficulties, etc. But, one of the most common reasons is to correct crossbites where the teeth do not meet correctly and this can lead to bite issues, premature wear of the teeth, and pain.
We’ll learn more about palate expanders in just a moment but first let’s pause and see what some of the experts of orthodontic medicine have to say about bite issues.
Generally, it is assumed that an overbite, an overjet, or any other deviation from the average can contribute to a poor quality of life (Fabian S et al.,2018).
It is also possible, and even very likely, that depending on the severity of the deviation of the teeth that orthodontic treatment is required (Fabian S et al.,2018).
Research has shown that children and adolescents who have overjet deviations of more than 6 mm when compared to the average have significant limitations in their quality of life (Fabian S et al.,2018).
Why Do I Need An Orthodontic Expander?
An orthodontic expander or palate expander is a device your orthodontist will use to help widen an upper jaw that is too narrow. It is anchored on the back molars and has two halves connected to a device into which you fit a key to turn and push the two halves apart. This helps widen the jaw.
If your child has crowded teeth, overlapping teeth, crooked teeth, a bite issue like crossbite or open bite, problems with chewing or speaking, or impacted teeth, they might be a good candidate for a palate expander.
This is because the palate expander will help make more space for all of the teeth to be able to grow in properly and help improve the way the two jaws meet so that the upper and lower teeth meet as they should.
Some children who have sleep apnea may also benefit from a palate expander.
It’s most often used in children who are about 7 or 8 years old because the growth plates are not fused yet. You may not know this, but both your upper jaw and lower jaw are actually two pieces that fuse together as you get older.
Most kids will wear them for about two or three months, but some may need to wear it for longer. Teens and adults, because the bones have already been set, will need to wear a palate expander for longer. Every patient has a unique situation though, and many will not need a palate expander. Your orthodontist will let you know if you do.
What Is The Palatal Expander Key?
Your palate expander has a center portion that drives the two halves apart and those widen the palate. It is turned by a key. This key often folds flat and has a small metal piece that fits into a hole in the center of your palate expander. You turn it until the new hole appears.
How To Turn An Expander And How Do You Use A Palate Expander Key?
You will unfold the metal portion of the key from the handle and insert it in the hole in the palate expander up to the first bend in the metal part. Then you will be in the correct position. This bend is a safety position designed so that you don’t push the key in too far, but you also know that you have it in far enough.
Then you will push back towards the back of the mouth until the next hole rotates around into the position where you started. This will be a complete turn. Then remove the key by pulling straight down. If you move it forward, that would actually reverse the turn and undo the work you just did.
Parents, if you have to turn the palate expander in your child’s mouth, you will take the key and insert it into the hole at the closest point towards the front of the mouth. Then you will push it all the way back towards the back of the mouth. When you see the next hole, pull straight down on the key to remove it. You should be able to see the next hole for when you have to do your next key turn in about 12 hours.You should be turning the key twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
If you do have a lower palate expander, it will work much the same way. You will place the key into the hole that’s visible at the top and push it in until it gets to the safety band. Then push the key towards the tongue and rotate it until you see the next hole in your expander. Then slide the key out towards the tongue to remove it and make sure that you can see a visible hole so you know you have completed one turn.
You or your child may experience some discomfort from a palate expander because it is moving the bones apart. This can be alleviated by eating cold foods like ice cream or frozen yogurt, or other soft foods like mashed potatoes and applesauce. Because palate expanders are not worn for a long time, your child should not experience much discomfort for long.
If you don’t have an orthodontist, we’d be happy to meet you. Give us a call or book an appointment online and set up your free initial consultation. We’d love to answer your questions.