Everything You Need to Know About Palatal Expanders

Have you ever tried to pack a suitcase that was just a bit too small for the number of things you’re trying to bring with you? The result is an overcrowded bag with too little space for your things to fit! When you have a narrow palate, it’s a similar situation: there’s not enough space for teeth to fit in your mouth, which could result in a crooked smile. But don’t worry – the team at Stacy Wolf Orthodontics has the perfect solution. Here’s everything you need to know about palatal expanders!

It’s All In the Palate 

You can’t talk about a palatal expander without talking about a narrow palate. Just like every fingerprint is unique to the individual, so is each set of teeth. Children grow differently, and factors like narrow palates can require specialized treatment plans that include a palatal expander. But what is a narrow palate, and why does it require additional treatment? 

Having a narrow palate simply means you lack space in your mouth, and a lack of space in your mouth usually results in crooked, crowded, or overlapping teeth. When the roof of your child’s mouth is narrower than is proportional to their size, they likely have a narrow palate. 

Just like with any orthodontic condition, there are several possible reasons a child may develop a narrow palate. If a child experiences one or more of the following conditions, they may require a palatal expander. 

  • Thumb-Sucking: Children who suck their thumbs past the age of four or five are susceptible to developing a narrow palate. 
  • Genetics: Narrow palates often run in the family. If a parent has had issues with a narrow palate, it is a sign that their child may also develop one. 
  • Tongue Tie: As many as 16% of children are born with a tongue tie, which restricts the tongue’s ability to put pressure on the roof of the mouth to help it develop. This condition could lead to a narrow palate.

Palatal Expanders: The Key to Their Straight Smile

Palatal expanders work best for younger patients whose mouths are still growing. The palate of your child’s mouth is made of two separate bones that meet in the middle. When they reach puberty, these bones fuse together. Until then, they are pliable — and that’s where expanders come in. 

The flexibility of these bones allows a palatal expander to work with your child’s natural growth. Palatal expanders are unique metal tools that fit on the roof of your child’s mouth. These adjustable appliances exert a constant pressure that gently broadens the upper jaw for three to six months, giving their teeth more space to shift in line. As the tool gently pushes the bones away from one another, new bone grows to fill in the space and voila! They have a wider palate and more space for their teeth to line up properly. 

Taking Care of a Palatal Expander

Palatal expanders are patient-friendly and so easy to adjust that they can do it at home! When Dr. Wolf attaches the palatal expander to a patient’s teeth, we’ll give them a special adjustment tool and a tightening schedule. This tool looks and works like a key. To adjust the appliance as directed, simply insert the key into the hole in the middle of the device and turn. 

Your child may feel slight discomfort when you tighten their expander, but these adjustments are much milder than the kind they get at their regular braces appointment at our office — they’ll hardly feel a difference.

Everything You Need to Know About Palatal ExpandersStick With the Pros at Stacy Wolf Orthodontics

A straight smile starts with a personalized treatment plan from Stacy Wolf Orthodontics. We’ll consider your child’s individual needs and goals to craft the unique plan that works best for them so that they can feel confident in their grin. If you’re ready to get started, schedule your child’s free consultation in Bayside today!