Palatal Expanders: When Are They Needed?

Palatal expanders Carmel IN orthodontists

Though not applicable for everyone, our Carmel, IN, orthodontists may recommend that some patients wear palatal expanders as part of their treatment plan. Fortunately, these types of oral appliances aren’t worn indefinitely and get the job done in a shorter period of time.

Here are 3 things to keep in mind if you’re given a palatal expander and when that might be.

What Exactly Are Palatal Expanders?

Commonly included as part of Phase 1 orthodontic treatment, palatal expanders are designed to literally expand a patient’s palate (roof of their mouth) often before metal braces are put on. The work the expander does over time will widen the upper jaw to help with teeth that are crowded, overlapping, crooked, or impacted. Bite issues can also be resolved this way as well.

In short, this oral appliance creates more room in the mouth for teeth and can make it so the upper and lower teeth fit better together. Dr. Davila and Dr. Hani understand that the concept of a palatal expander may sound scary. You shouldn’t worry, however, as it should not cause pain, only slight pressure after it’s routinely adjusted.

With Palatal Expanders, Remember That You:

1) May Wear Them More or Less Than Someone Else

The length of time you’re wearing a palatal expander will depend largely on your age, how committed you are to following the rules set by our orthodontists, and the severity of your dental issues. Because of these factors, not everyone has an expander for the same amount of time.

For instance, adult orthodontic patients can have an expander in place for much longer than those in their younger years due to fully developed bones. People of any age can have a palatal expander but the still developing jawbones of children help move things along faster. It’s not uncommon for teens and adults to wear the device for up to a year.

2) Need to Clean the Device Daily

Like with any oral appliance, you need to keep a palatal expander clean. It is in your mouth all the time, after all. That means it’s subjected to bacteria, plaque, and food debris which can all lead to complications if not dealt with properly.

If your expander is removable, you can gently brush it with a toothbrush and mild, colorless soap. Make sure to get in between the nooks and crannies of the device before rinsing it thoroughly with lukewarm water and letting it air dry.

Another way is to use a water flosser. This should work with any type of palatal expander. Point the flosser toward the appliance and carefully use the water to dislodge food particles that may be trapped underneath.

Note: If you have a fixed palatal expander, Dr. Davila and Dr. Hani advise you to avoid certain foods or you may risk damaging the device. Those foods include hard candies, anything overly sticky or chewy like taffy, caramel, or steak, and popcorn.

3) May See Spacing Between Front Teeth 

When your jaw is being widened, it’s normal for your two front teeth to be affected. Fortunately, this is only a temporary side effect and the gap that is created by the palatal expander will either close on its own or your inevitable braces will do the job.

Aside from tooth spacing, you may also notice the following:

  • Mild discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Drooling
  • Slight lisp when speaking

All of the above are not meant to last long and will resolve as you adjust to the palatal expander. If you’re ever concerned, feel free to let our orthodontists and our staff know and we’ll do our best to help.

Make an Appointment

Our orthodontists in Carmel, IN, believe in transparency. If it’s clear that you or your child would benefit from having a palatal expander, we’ll be sure to discuss this with you. It’s never our goal to prescribe something that isn’t truly necessary. Call WestClay Orthodontics today at (317) 593-1400 to request an appointment.