It’s not uncommon for children to develop dental issues. Crooked teeth, crowded teeth, or impacted teeth without room to erupt are just a few possibilities that require orthodontic treatment. Thankfully, there are many options for correcting these and other issues. One such method relies on a device called a palatal expander. The following guide explores this appliance and how it helps improve a child’s teeth.

What’s a Palatal Expander?

If your child develops a narrow upper jaw, they can experience dental problems. A palatal expander is a metal and plastic orthodontic treatment appliance that widens the roof of the mouth to correct or prevent issues. It sits along the roof of the mouth and has bands that wrap around the back molars to hold it in place. Routinely adjusting it puts pressure on the bands and upper molars, widening the jaw over time. This improves the jaw’s growth and development before it fully hardens upon adulthood.

When Are They Necessary?

A narrow palate can prevent upper teeth from erupting straight, as they won’t have enough room to grow in properly. It may also cause existing teeth to become crowded and crooked. Since a palatal expander widens the upper jaw, it makes more space for teeth to erupt properly. It can also create space between existing teeth, making it easier to install braces or aligners to straighten them. Additionally, palatal expanders can align the upper and lower sets of teeth, preventing or correcting crossbite, where the upper and lower teeth are misaligned.

How to Adjust & Maintain Them

You can adjust a palatal expander by inserting its key and turning it in the direction indicated by the arrow on the device. You’ll know you’ve turned the key far enough when a new keyhole appears. If your child has trouble with this, you can help them make the adjustment. Most orthodontists recommend adjusting the appliance twice daily, once in the morning and night. Feeling mild pain is expected, but you can give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen to eliminate discomfort. Over time, spaces may open between your young one’s front teeth, which is typical.

Patients fitted with palatal expanders should brush twice and floss once daily to avoid tooth decay and cavities while wearing the device. Good dental hygiene also keeps bacteria from absorbing into gums, causing infection. Besides preventing sore, raw tissues, this keeps swollen gums from obstructing the device’s bands, delaying tooth movement, and increasing the amount of time it takes to expand the upper jaw.