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Does My child Need a Palate Expander?

Child with braces smiles while learning about palatal exapnders

Most people know what dental braces are. In fact, according to Humana, about 4 million Americans wear braces!

Orthodontic appliances, on the other hand, aren’t as well-known. The first time most patients hear about appliances (like palatal expanders) is when their child needs one, or they need one themselves.

A palatal expander is one of the most common appliances used to treat young patients, yet many questions exist around palatal expanders. Patients often ask us:

  • What is a palate expander?
  • What are palate expanders for?

Who needs a palatal expander?

We want you to have all the information you need to make the best decision for you and your child!

Here’s everything you need to know about the palatal expander appliance:

What is a Palatal Expander?

The function of the palate, or the roof of the mouth, is to close off the nasal passages and airways when a person swallows. The width of the palate is significant, because it has a direct effect on the bite position and the amount of space available for the top teeth to grow.

A palatal expander is used to expand the palate, thus widening the upper jaw. This appliance is commonly required for younger patients who have a crossbite, crowded teeth, or impacted teeth.

How Do Palatal Expanders Work?

When a person is younger, the palate is not yet fused together. There is a distinct line separating the left side of the palate from the right side. As we grow, these bones fuse together to become one solid palate.

Palatal expanders are typically used before the palate fuses into one, which enables the appliance to work with the natural development of the jaw. That’s why it’s ideal for younger patients to benefit from a palatal expander during early orthodontic treatment.

The expander is custom-made to fit the patient’s mouth, and this appliance is bonded to the upper molars on either side. This metal appliance has a left half and a ride half, which join together in the center of the palate with a screw.

Each day, the patient will use a key to turn the middle screw just a little. This screw causes the expander to widen, which applies gentle pressure on the palatal bones. This outward pressure stimulates bone growth, and effectively widens the palate.

Although it might sound like a strange contraption, a palate expander is not unusual! Palate expander pain is rare, because the appliance is customized to the patient’s mouth and is designed to apply gentle force, little-by-little each day.

A palatal expander may be worn anywhere from 3 to 9 months. In some cases, an expander may resolve orthodontic issues without the need for braces. In other cases, the palatal expander is the first step in an orthodontic treatment plan leading to braces.

At What Age Should Patients Get a Palate Expander?

Around age seven, when baby teeth are shedding and permanent teeth are slowly erupting, problematic orthodontic conditions start to become apparent.

When permanent teeth are emerging, our treating doctors are able to identify whether a young patient may require a palatal expander.

Most palate expander patients are between the ages of eight and thirteen. The palate fuses together between ages 14 and 16, so beginning treatment with a palatal expander before the palate merges is ideal.

Although treatment is optimal in the earlier years, adults can also benefit from palate expansion. Many adults use palatal expanders to treat crowded teeth or poor bite conditions, or to prepare the mouth for adult braces.

How Much Does a Palate Expander Cost?

The cost of a palate expander will vary based on your needs. At Cooper Orthodontics, we believe everyone should have access to affordable, high-quality orthodontic treatment.

We offer a variety of payment plans to accommodate your circumstances. When you visit us at any of our convenient locations in South Florida, our wonderful team will discuss everything you need to know. From treatment time, to the cost of treatment and each payment plan option available, we want to help you make the best choice for yourself and your smile.

If you have any other questions, we want to hear from you! Contact us or schedule your free orthodontic exam with us today.