Palatal Expansion

Posted on: April 15, 2021

Palatal Expansion St Peters, MO

Palatal expanders, a part of the process of palatal expansion, are used in the field of orthodontics to widen the top row of teeth in order to make them fit well with the bottom teeth. These devices are used for special cases when upper teeth are crowded or the palate is too narrow to allow for proper tooth and jaw development. Palatal expansion is often used in combination with braces to create a more pleasing effect for teeth placement and facial shape.

How do palatal expanders work?

Known as a rapid palatal expander, the device is attached to the upper molars. This fixed appliance gradually places outward pressure on the upper jaw, allowing the dental arch to widen. This pressure allows the jawbone to fill in the space created, permanently expanding the bite. Teeth then have the room to shift into a corrected position, and the upper and lower teeth fit together correctly for optimal occlusion.

The device works together with a special key fitted to the appliance. At each treatment cycle, the individual or their orthodontist will turn that key in the center of the expander, pushing the device against the inside of teeth and widening the palate little by little.

In mild cases, a removable palatal expander can be used. Resembling a denture, the device works best for adults with mild crossbite.

Reasons for palatal expansion

During childhood, the mouth goes through a series of changes. When the jaw and teeth are still developing, bite problems start to show. Expanding the upper jaw can correct these issues before the bite has settled.

Palatal expanders are used to:

  • Correct a crossbite — When the upper teeth do not close around the outside of the lower teeth, a crossbite occurs; patients with narrow palates are susceptible to crossbite, and if left unchecked, it can result in asymmetrical lower jaw growth and even negatively affect facial shape.
  • Eliminate overcrowding issues — Palatal expansion makes room for the upper teeth to come in correctly.
  • Improve breathing ability — Since the palate is so closely connected to the nasal passage, a narrow upper jaw can make it difficult to breathe; correcting the problem will allow freer breathing through the nose and reduce the need to breathe through the mouth.


Oral hygiene is a crucial part of any orthodontic treatment, and the palatal expander is no exception. The fixed appliance must be cleaned every morning and night when brushing teeth. Brush it as you would braces, using a fluoride toothpaste to clear it of any food particles or residue. Using an antibacterial oral rinse will fortify teeth and decrease the occurrence of tooth decay.

Results of palatal expansion

With palatal expanders, teeth are able to shift into their correct position. Palatal expansion results in a broader smile and even a more natural facial shape. These devices not only improve the smile but also alter the shape of the jaw and face.

Am I a candidate?

Palatal expansion best works on patients over the age of five and under the age of 16. After 16 years, the mouth and jaw are much less malleable. Adults will likely only need dental expansion, not palatal expansion. If dental expansion is not an option, surgery becomes the next best course of action.

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