dentist examines the teeth of a girl with braces

What is a Palatal Expander?


If you’ve been told by your pediatric dentist or orthodontist that your child needs a palatal expander, or a palate expander device, don’t panic. Palatal expanders are very common, orthodontic devices designed to enlarge the size of the upper jaw (palate). Increasing the size of the palate is necessary to correct several common conditions in young children. Palatal expanders are considered preventative or interceptive orthodontic devices, because they are used to prevent problems, rather than correcting them after they have become an issue. Here’s what to know about palate expanders.

Why Does My Child Need a Palate Expander?

Palatal expanders are recommended for children as young as five, to prevent tooth misalignment and problems with a bite (malocclusion). They are made of plastic and metal and are bonded to the upper molars to stay in place. Parents then use a special key to make tiny adjustments each day to enlarge the size of the palate.

If your child’s dentist or orthodontist has recommended a palate expander device it is because there is not enough room in your child’s mouth for all of their adult teeth to fit. Fortunately, when children are young, the upper jaw has not yet fused. So expanding it is easy.

A second reason for a palatal expander is to correct a crossbite. A crossbite often results when the upper jaw is too narrow to align properly with the bottom teeth. By widening the upper jaw, crossbites can be corrected when children are young. Some underbites may also respond to treatment with an orthodontic expander. 

The third reason for a palate expander is to prevent severe crowding of teeth. Permanent teeth will need enough room to erupt. For some young children, using a palatal expander will help prevent future tooth extractions.

Finally, your child’s dentist or orthodontist may recommend expanding the size of the upper jaw to prevent impacted teeth. Impacted teeth are those that are unable to erupt into the correct place because another tooth is in the way. Using an expander to increase the size of the upper jaw can create the space teeth need to properly come in.  

Will a Palatal Expander Cause Pain?

These orthodontic devices can take a little getting used to. Initially, your child may have discomfort, and it’s smart to stick with soups, smoothies, or shakes for the first day. In the coming days, stick with soft foods, before transitioning into regular food. Chewing and speaking may be mildly affected in the first couple of days, but as your child gets used to the device, this should resolve.  

There may be a bit of discomfort after turning the key in the expander. For this reason, it may be beneficial to turn it at night, so your child goes to sleep, and doesn’t feel any pressure.  

Long Island’s Favorite Pediatric Dental and Orthodontics Group

Suffolk Pediatric Dentistry is Long Island’s favorite dental and orthodontic team focused on treating children and adolescents. With four locations in Port Jefferson, Sayville, Wading River, and Smithtown, our practice is home to 12 pediatric dentists and orthodontists, who provide comprehensive dentistry and orthodontic treatments. Contact us to schedule a preventative checkup, or orthodontic consultation today.

Port Jefferson Office:        631-928-8585

Wading River Office:        631-929-7575

Sayville Office:        631-750-9175

Smithtown Office:        631-265-3266