What Is a Palate Expander and How Do You Turn It Daily?

Crowded teeth can be treated with braces or clear aligners such as Invisalign or 3M Clarity. In some cases, crowded teeth are caused by a narrow upper jaw. In those cases, we can make way for those straight teeth with a palate expander. 

Shoe Orthodontics uses these devices so we can line up your upper teeth without having to extract some first. Many of our expander patients are children, but they can also be used in adults. Here is what you need to know about palate expanders and how they can help you or your child. 

What Is a Palate Expander?

A palate expander is used to widen the roof of your mouth, thereby widening your dental arch. Your dental arch is the half-circle your teeth form. Turn it upright, and your jaw looks like an arch. 

Those with a narrow arch often don’t have enough room for all of their permanent teeth to erupt straight. They need their palate widened to accommodate all their teeth.

We can usually spot this early in children, so the American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children consult with an orthodontist starting at age 7. 

It’s easier to widen a child’s palate because the two bones in the roof of the mouth haven’t fused yet. Adult palates can be widened even with fused bones, but it may take longer than children. 

What Are the Types of Palate Expanders? 

There are several different types of palate expanders for adults and children. They work the same general way. The devices attach to the back teeth with a metal square in the middle. A palate expander key is inserted into the square and turned each day. This pushes against the teeth, slowly widening the jaw. 

The four main types of palatal expanders are: 

  • Rapid Palate Expander (RPE): This is often used on younger patients whose palates haven’t fused yet. 
  • Maxillary Skeletal Expansion (MSE) or Miniscrew-Assisted Rapid Palate Expander(MARPE): This is often used for adults whose bones are already fused and allows palate expansion without major surgery. 
  • Surgically-Assisted Rapid Palate Expansion (SARPE): This requires jaw surgery and is only used for the most severe cases. 
  • Removable Palate Expander: This works similarly to a rapid palate expander but can be removed. It’s recommended only for mild cases. 

How to Turn a Palate Expander

The palatal expander works by turning a key in it each day. This must be done to keep steady pressure against the teeth and widen the palate. 

  1. Get the key: It looks like a metal hook with a plastic handle.
  2. Find the expander: Insert the key into a tiny hole in the metal square on the expander.
  3. Turn and push: Turn the key and push it toward the back of the palate to widen the expander.
  4. Remove the key: After turning, take out the key.
  5. Store for tomorrow: Put the key aside to use again the next day.

Do Palate Expanders Hurt?

You’re probably wondering, do palatal expanders hurt? You will probably be sore after we place it on your teeth. It’s not unusual to have sore gums and sensitive teeth.

You may also feel discomfort after adjusting your expander with the key, at least for the first few days. It shouldn’t last long each day, and your mouth will soon become used to it. This discomfort should end after that. 

Some people wonder if palate expander facial changes occur. They may create a slight change once they widen the palate, but for the most part, you shouldn’t see a major face change from the expander. You’ll likely see a much more apparent change after your braces treatment. 

How Long Do You Wear Palate Expanders?

The length of time with a palate expander varies from patient to patient. It depends on how narrow your palate is and how wide it needs to be. 

Palate expanders generally work within weeks, usually 3-6 weeks. But it is left in so the palate can fuse together and heal. Usually, it is left in about 4-6 months. We'll be sure to communicate

Palate Expanders for Kids and Adults in Hanover, PA

If you need a palate expander in Hanover, PA, or Reisterstown, MD, Shoe Orthodontics can help! Not every patient needs one, so our first step is to provide a thorough examination to see what type of treatment you need. 

If you need a palate expander, we’ll take care of that first as part of your treatment plan. Once the expander is off, we can move to your braces treatment or treatment with Invisalign or 3M clear aligners. 
Schedule an appointment with Shoe Orthodontics when you’re ready, and we will start you on the journey to a healthy, straight, beautiful smile.

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