If you’re considering getting orthodontic treatment, you’re probably doing all your research to map out your path to a straight smile. With so much information, it can be challenging to predict how your treatment plan will turn out, but that’s why Dr. Parikh is here to help! Orthodontic treatment looks different for everyone. Because you have unique needs and smile goals, our team at Hidden Smiles Orthodontics may recommend several orthodontic appliances to shift your teeth in gear. One of the most common tools we use for younger patients works to provide more space in your mouth so that your teeth can fit comfortably without crowding. Here’s everything you need to know about your palatal expander – plus a few tips and tricks for using it!
What is a palatal expander?
Our Hidden Smiles Orthodontics team sees patients with all sorts of orthodontic conditions, and one of the most common is a narrow palate. When you come in with crowded teeth (teeth competing for space in the mouth) or a crossbite (a form of misalignment called a malocclusion), it might be because the top of your mouth is too small for all of your adult teeth to grow correctly.
A narrow palate means you lack space in your mouth, and a lack of space in your mouth usually results in crooked, crowded, or overlapping teeth. These conditions can lead to even more problems in your everyday life that aren’t confined to your smile. Crowding and crossbites can cause headaches, tooth pain, decay, or sleep apnea, but don’t worry! A palatal expander can address these problems at the root and leave you with a smile you’ll feel proud of.
Palatal expanders work best for younger patients whose mouths are still growing. The palate of your mouth has two separate bones that meet in the middle. When you reach puberty, these bones fuse. Until then, they are pliable — and that’s where expanders come in.
The flexibility of these bones allows a palatal expander to work with your natural growth. As the tool gently pushes the bones away from one another, new bone grows to fill in the space and voila! You have a more expansive palate and more space in your mouth for your teeth to line up properly.
How it works
Palatal or orthodontic expanders are unique metal tools that fit on the roof of your mouth. These adjustable appliances exert a constant pressure that gently broadens the upper jaw for three to six months, giving your teeth more space to shift in line. Palatal expanders are patient-friendly and so easy to adjust that you can do it at home! Your expander should be tightened once every few days, depending on our doctors’ advice.
When Dr. Parikh attaches the palatal expander to your teeth, she’ll give you a special adjustment tool and a tightening schedule. This tool looks and works like a key. To adjust your appliance as directed, simply insert the key into the hole in the middle of your device and turn.
You may feel slight discomfort when you tighten your expander, but these adjustments are much milder than the kind you get at your regular braces appointment at our office — you’ll hardly feel a difference.
Fixed vs. Removable Palatal Expanders
Just like braces, there are several types of palatal expanders on the market designed for patients with different conditions and needs.
Fixed Expanders: If you have a more complex condition, you may require a fixed expander. Our doctors attach metal bands to two of your top back teeth. These expanders include a metal screw that you can adjust on the schedule provided for you.
Removable Expanders: Typically used for patients with mild orthodontic conditions, this option allows you to remove your expander when eating, playing sports, or brushing your teeth. For best results, you should wear this tool as often as possible, for nearly 24 hours daily.
Tips From Dr. Parikh
Palatal expanders are unique orthodontic tools. Here are some tips and tricks from the pros for taking care of them!
Tip #1: Avoid sticky or crunchy foods that might harm your expander.
Tip #2: If you feel discomfort when adjusting your expander, Dr. Parikh suggests adjusting your appliance at night so that you can sleep through it.
Tip #3: Trust the process! When we first apply your palatal expander, there may be a learning curve. The new appliance could feel awkward in your mouth, and you might develop a slight lisp when speaking for about a week. Don’t let this hold you back! The feeling is temporary — your straight smile goals are forever!
Trust Your Team at Hidden Smiles Orthodontics
When it comes to getting braces, you want a supportive and capable team behind you. Dr. Parikh is a trained orthodontist with years of experience shaping smiles in Huntington. We offer four different treatment plans to accommodate any orthodontic need, so you can feel comfortable knowing we’ve got your back.
If you’re ready to get started on your straight smile journey, schedule your free consultation with Dr. Parikh today!