When do Palatal Expanders Benefit Your Child?

Palatal ExpandersWorried about potential long-term issues with your child's oral health? The time to act is now. Utilizing “interceptive orthodontics,” a preventative approach to orthodontic treatment for patients as young as 6, can improve your child’s dental and oral outlook tremendously. At this age, teeth are still developing and the jaw is still growing. That means certain conditions, such as teeth crowding and bad bites (malocclusions), may be easier to address. That’s where orthodontic appliances like palatal expanders come into play.

What is a Palatal Expander?

A palatal expander is a device designed to help us take advantage of a child’s natural growth to correct dental/oral issues. Palatal expanders create more space in a child's mouth by gradually widening the upper jaw. Although this may sound scary, it's really quite easy — both to accomplish and to experience. That's because the upper jaw actually develops as two separate halves that don't completely fuse together until after puberty. Before that happens, the two bones can gently be separated and stabilized over a period of several months.

An expander is custom-made by your child’s skilled orthodontist — created to fit over a few top teeth in the back of the mouth. The appliance has two halves that are connected in the middle with a screw. To activate the device, you simply turn the screw a very small amount each day with a special key. This induces tension at the junction of the two palatal bones, causing them to gradually move apart. Once the desired expansion is achieved, we will leave the appliance in for a few more months to allow new bone to form in the gap and stabilize the expansion. Generally, palatal expanders are worn for 3 - 6 months altogether.

Do Palatal Expanders Hurt?

There can be some soreness or a feeling of pressure for a few minutes after the key is turned, but activating an expander actually causes less discomfort than having braces tightened. Your child may find that speaking and eating feels different at first as the tongue adjusts to the presence of the appliance. It is also completely normal to see a gap develop between the front teeth. This shows that the expander is having the desired effect. When all is said and done, your child's permanent teeth will be beautifully aligned without too much or too little space between them.

Reasons for this Orthodontic Treatment:

  • Eliminates or reduces overcrowding. Palatal expanders create space for all your child's upper teeth to erupt in their correct positions.
  • Improves breathing ability. A narrow or deep upper jaw makes it difficult for a child to breathe through his or her nose. This results in continuous mouth-breathing, which causes the unhealthy inhalation of unfiltered bacteria, dry mouth, and potential halitosis.
  • Reduces impacted teeth. When a tooth that hasn't come in (erupted) is blocked by other teeth, widening the upper jaw can allow it to erupt into the proper position on its own. This most often happens with canine or eye teeth — the pointier teeth located directly under the eyes.
  • Corrects a crossbite. The upper teeth should close around the outside of the lower teeth. In a patient with a narrow palate, it can be the other way around with the upper teeth biting inside the lower teeth. This results in asymmetrical growth of the lower jaw, which can cause facial asymmetry if it isn't corrected in time.
  • Provides other benefits for the jaw. Expanding the upper jaw can broaden the smile in an aesthetically pleasing way. This orthodontic treatment can limit the number of teeth that need to be removed to create space. It may also shorten overall orthodontic treatment time later on (the amount of time your child will need to wear braces).


Dental hygiene is always important; that doesn’t change during upper jaw expansion. While kids wear their palatal expanders, it's necessary to clean the appliance carefully each time they brush their teeth with a fluoride toothpaste. Kids and young adolescents can also rinse with anti-bacterial products to provide the teeth with the strength of fluoride, which increases tooth strength and prevents decay from forming.

Contact Your Orthodontist Now!

We invite you to schedule a consultation with our orthodontist at our Orlando or Winter Park office in order to find out what type of orthodontic treatment and appliances may be right for your child. You can schedule an appointment online now!