A palate (palatal) expander is an orthodontic appliance that creates space in a child’s mouth by widening the roof of the mouth over time. The purpose of the palatal expansion is to widen narrow palates in children and correctly align the upper teeth and jaw.
A unique set of expanders is made for each patient, depending on their dental arch and palate size. The devices come in two forms: fixed and removable.
Here are some common types of expanders:
Removable Palatal Expander
A removable expander is only recommended when a patient needs minor jaw widening. These appliances look similar to acrylic retainers, except they are chrome.
Rapid Palatal Expander (RPE)
The rapid palatal expander can correct crowding, crossbites, and narrow palates. They fit over a few back teeth in the upper jaw with a screw in the middle.
This type consists of four mini-implants that apply force directly to the maxillary bone, instead of the teeth.
When is Palate Expansion Necessary?
An impacted tooth is the one that is stuck under the gums and blocked by other teeth. In this situation, dentists recommend extractions to reduce the chance of disease and jaw misalignment. Here a palate expander helps proper eruption of permanent teeth by widening the jaw.
A crossbite happens when upper and lower teeth misalign when biting down. Sometimes palate expansion treatment can correct this type of malocclusion.
Over-retained teeth are when baby teeth loosen but then tighten back into the gums, preventing the eruption of permanent teeth.
Not extracting the primary teeth leads to dental crowding. It is a condition that takes place when there is not enough space for teeth to grow in. Palate expanders eradicate the need for extractions and create space for permanent teeth to grow in.