The Palatal Expander Appliance

A palatal expander is an appliance commonly used in early orthodontic treatment to widen the upper jaw bone and create sufficient space for a healthy set of permanent teeth to grow without crowding or overlapping. It also helps correct crossbites when the posterior upper and lower teeth do not fit together the way they should.

There are different types of palatal expanders used for different cases. When Dr. Matsumoto completes your complimentary consultation, he’ll suggest the most effective treatment route for your condition. While the majority of our consultations are free, charges may apply in select complex surgical or complicated cases.

We’re here to provide you with all of the information you need to make the best decision for you or your child’s smile!

child wearing his palatal expander smiles at mother in hammock

Who can benefit from a palatal expander?

This appliance is most effective when the jaw bones are still developing and the permanent teeth are erupting through the gums. The optimal palatal expander age is generally between ages 5 and 12.  

Adults can still benefit from a palatal expander, but they most often require an implant-supported expander or a surgically-assisted expander if their jaw bones have stopped developing.

How does a palatal expander work?

This appliance uses small metal bands, positioned around the upper molars, with a screw piece that sits in the center of the roof of the mouth.

You’ll insert a special key into the center screw and rotate the key backwards, toward your throat. This is considered one full turn. Activating the expander will trigger it to exert gentle outward pressure on the upper teeth. 

Over time, these tiny turns will expand the upper jaw to the desired width. Once the jaw bone is properly expanded, you or your child will continue to wear the appliance for a few months to prevent the bones and teeth from reverting to their original position.

Signs That You May Need a Palatal Expander

Types of Palatal Expanders

Rapid Palatal Expander

The most common type of palatal expander is the RPE (rapid palatal expander). This one is bonded to the teeth and remains in place, through the day and night, for at least six months. The RPE is activated each day to gradually expand the jaw.

Implant-Supported Palatal Expander

An implant-supported expander is most often used for adults whose jaw bones are done developing. This one has four small implants that are embedded into the maxillary bone (upper jaw bone).

Surgically-Assisted Rapid Palatal Expander

Also used for adults whose jaw bones are done developing, the SARPE (surgically-assisted rapid palatal expander) expands the jaw through a surgical orthodontic approach.

Are there palatal expander side effects?

The expansion process can sound a bit intimidating, but you can rest assured that plenty of people have undergone successful treatment with palatal expanders and experienced life-changing benefits!

You should not experience any palatal expander pain at any point in your treatment. Your appliance will be custom-designed to fit your mouth, and it won’t expand without you activating it. 

When you turn the key, you may experience a slight tingling around the bridge of your nose, but this feeling should go away within a few minutes. After about a week or two wearing the expander, most people are used to this mild sensation!

It is very common for a gap to develop between the patient’s top front teeth when using a palatal expander, because half of the teeth are moving to the right and the other half are moving to the left as the upper jaw expands. This gap is only temporary, and most of the time it closes by itself partially or completely. Any gap that remains after that will be closed through the rest of your orthodontic treatment.

Palatal Expander Cost

The cost of your expander will be factored into your personalized treatment plan. Your treatment cost will depend on a few things, including the severity of your condition, the length of your treatment, and the payment plan you choose.

At your first visit to our Porters Neck office in Wilmington, NC, we’ll discuss your financial needs to create a payment plan that works for you!

Personalized treatment plan

Have questions about palatal expanders?

We’re here to answer your questions, and we want you to know your options!

Dr. Matsumoto and our experienced team are here to guide you, so you can experience a positive treatment process while you achieve your perfect smile.

Ready to get started? Request your complimentary consultation at our convenient Porters Neck office in Wilmington, NC today!