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Palatal Expanders

For many preteens, teens, and adults, traditional braces are effective methods to perfectly align smiles. However, for others, phase 1 orthodontics and/or oral appliances are necessary to deliver the perfectly aligned smile patients are after. One of the many orthodontic appliances we use at Cartwright Orthodontics is the palatal expander. They allow us to adjust the width of the upper jaw to ensure proper, comfortable dental function. We recommend children, especially those with noticeable alignment concerns, visit us for an orthodontic consultation by the age seven. At these consultation appointments, we’ll examine the smile and help you determine whether or not palatal expanders, other orthodontic appliances, or phase 1 orthodontics are necessary. Call our team to find out more or schedule an orthodontic consultation in either of our two convenient office locations in McMurray or Bethel Park today.

When do You Need a Palatal Expander?

Palatal expanders are orthodontic devices used to expand the width of the upper jaw. We typically use these devices as part of a phase 1 orthodontic plan. Children’s jaws (and the rest of their bones) are still hardening. Palatal expanders are best used, during this time when treatment will be much less painful and the jaw will expand more readily. We may need to use palatal expanders to correct the bite for children whose natural jaw development is not wide enough to accommodate proper function. Another cause of the jaw developing improperly is thumb, digit, and pacifier sucking. Young children use these behaviors to self soothe, and that’s perfectly natural. However, these habits can pull teeth forward and change the shape of the palate if children are allowed to continue thumb sucking past the age of two or three.

How do Palatal Expanders Work?

Palatal expanders are attached to the teeth and they can be adjusted to place pressure on the sides of the jaw and expand the palate. During regular checkups in our office, we’ll gently adjust the expander using a key that turns the orthodontic appliance and places additional pressure to shift the jaw gradually. Most people need to wear their palatal expander for at least six months. During treatment, you’ll notice widening gaps in the teeth. This uneven spacing will need to be treated later using braces.

How to Clean Palatal Expanders

Palatal expanders need to be cleaned just like your healthy teeth and soft tissue to ensure optimal oral health. You should brush them thoroughly with a toothbrush and toothpaste every time you clean your teeth and gums. You can also use a water flosser to remove plaque buildup in areas that are difficult to access using just a toothbrush. Antimicrobial mouth rinses are also beneficial in removing plaque.

Does the Palatal Expander Hurt?

You should not remove your palatal expander without help from our team, so it’s important you care for the appliance properly and avoid eating hard, sticky foods. You will likely experience some pain or discomfort when the expander is placed and adjusted. Immediately following an adjustment, you may want to steer clear of tough foods. Instead, stick to softer foods and chew carefully as you adjust to the feel of your expander. You will also likely experience some difficulty speaking clearly at first. Most patients have a minor lisp the first few days they’re wearing the expander, but you’ll be back to normal after about a week wearing the expander.