QUESTION: What is a palatal expander and when is it used?

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Tdr olcay webhese days it seems that everybody gets a palatal expander. A palatal expander is an appliance against the roof of the mouth that widens (expands) the top jaw (maxilla). It can be fixed, glued in or removable, where the patient can take it in and out. Generally, the removable appliance is used when slow and little widening is needed.

A palatal expander is needed when the top jaw (maxilla) is too 
narrow for the bottom jaw. This is called cross bite. It could be that only one side, or both sides, and/or all around is too narrow. Thus the top jaw will be widened to fit the bottom jaw (mandible).

The crucial part about the palatal expander is timing. The palatal expander can only be used in a growing child. When growth is completed then the bones have matured, sutures have fused and a true bony expansion is not possible. You cannot then use an expander.

The American Association of Orthodontics and Dentofacial 
Orthopedics recommends that children are screened by age 7. The earlier the cross bite is corrected, the more stable the results are. The muscles adjust to the new position of the bones/jaw, resulting in more 
proportional growth.

Dr. Sezer Olcay NJ Specialty #5167
Holmdel Orthodontics
723 North Beers St., Suite 2A., Holmdel