What are Expanders? What Parents Need to Know

What Are Expanders? What Parents Need to Know

Taking your child to the orthodontist might stress you out if you don’t know what to expect. After all, it’s hard to know what to expect regarding potential treatments.

But we have your back at Orthobar. Our friendly orthodontic experts are here to answer your questions and help you prepare for your child’s next appointment.

In this post, we’re looking at palatal expanders to help you know what they are, what they treat, and when your child may need a palatal expander. Let’s get started!

What Is a Palatal Expander?

The simplest definition of a palatal expander is a device that helps widen the upper jaw to make space for adult teeth. These devices widen and expand the upper jaw to create more space for the adult teeth as they grow in.

After using a palatal expander, patients commonly spend a short time in braces to make sure everything aligns correctly. The end result is a bright, full smile with no crowding!

palatal expander on model teeth

What Do Palatal Expanders Treat?

We treat many pediatric patients at Orthobar, and we’ve found that patients who need palatal expanders have one of two issues that need correction.

  • They have a crossbite in the back molars that could affect chewing and prevent proper jaw growth and alignment
  • They need more space in the upper jaw to prevent future overcrowding and impacted teeth

Both conditions are common and need treatment to prevent future issues. 

For example, crossbites could make it harder for your child to chew correctly, and overcrowding could cause teeth to grow crooked or cause existing teeth to break as new ones emerge.

xray of impacted upper adult canines
Example: Impacted upper adult canines due to narrow palate and crowding

3d model of baby and permanent teeth

3d model of crowded teeth

Are There Different Types of Palatal Expanders?

Yes! We offer a variety of palate expanders at Orthobar to ensure your child gets the best device to fit their mouth. 

The most common palatal expander we use is a rapid palatal expander. These attach to your child’s molars with metal bands or rings and have an adjustable screw in the center that applies gentle pressure to the upper jaw. 

With each adjustment, these expanders will work to expand the palate where it needs to be.

Invisalign also offers a great palatal expander option that makes palatal expansion even easier. These new 3D-printed removable plastic expanders slide into the back of the mouth and gently press on the molars to achieve the same goal as your standard palatal expander. 

Your child will swap to a new expander each day until the end of their treatment, a process similar to Invisalign clear aligners. Active expansion phase is approximately 21 days, followed by a retention phase and finished with aligns to align the teeth after expansion has been completed. 

Most of our patients (and their parents) say that this system is virtually pain-free and lowers the anxiety around palate expansion. We’ll let you know if they are an option for your child’s treatment!

Invisalign Palatal Expander System

When Should Palatal Expander Treatment Start?

If your child needs a palatal expander, starting treatment early (typically at 7-9 years old) is ideal. That way, the expander can work with their body as the upper jaw develops.

At Orthobar, we will always work with you to develop the best plan of action to help your child have a bright orthodontic future. This includes road-mapping the best time to start treatment.

How Long Do Palatal Expander Treatments Last?

Treatment length varies for each person. Milder cases may only need a month or two of treatment, while more severe cases may take several months to a year.

We’ll discuss everything with you before treatments begin to make sure you know what to expect when it comes to treatment length.

Are Palatal Expanders Uncomfortable?

Your child might feel a little bit of discomfort for the first few days, and there’s a possibility that screw adjustments can cause tenderness. 

However, there shouldn’t be any pain outside of mild discomfort. We suggest that parents give an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen to ease this pain if needed

Are There Side Effects of Palatal Expanders?

There’s very little risk involved with palate expanders, and the side effects are minimal.

Your child may have a slight headache in addition to the mild discomfort from the treatment. They could also experience a bit of drooling or lisping while they speak until they adjust to having something new in the roof of their mouth. 

We want to know if you feel they are experiencing more than these typical side effects. Please call us right away if they feel severe pain or continue to feel uncomfortable for an extended time!

What Makes Us Different at Orthobar

We get excited about laying a foundation for proper orthodontic health at Orthobar! 

If you live in the Las Vegas area and need an orthodontist specializing in pediatric care, we are the right choice for you. Our caring team treats every patient like family, and we’re here to help your child have a bright orthodontic future.

Contact us today to learn more about our free consultation for first-time patients and how we can help you make orthodontic care more affordable!