Also known as a palatal widening appliance, this is a specially made device used to expand the upper arch or roof of the mouth. The maxilla, or upper dental arch, is joined in the center by an elastic joint, which allows it to be painlessly separated and spread. There are several reasons for widening the arch. First, by widening the upper arch, the upper teeth may line up better with the lower teeth, giving the patient a better bite. Second, where a high palate and a narrow arch restrict the breathing passages located above, widening the palate widens the air passages. Then the patient can breathe more easily through the nose. Third, widening the palate can make more room for crowded teeth to align better. Once the palate has been expanded fully, new bone tissue fills that space.
The palate expander uses four teeth to anchor themselves in place and by turning a small screw we are able to achieve expansion of the upper palate. You’ll notice that widening the palate also temporarily causes a space between the two front teeth. This will slowly go away in the next several days. Also the same pressure on the roof of the mouth may cause a feeling of pressure or a tingling sensation as the palate expands.
Since a palate expander is primarily an ‘orthopedic’ appliance (influence the growth of the bone) the younger the patient’s age when it is used, the more rapid and more stable the correction. When a patient reaches the stage we call ‘skeletal maturity’ (approximately age 15 for girls and for boys occurs around the age of 17) the two bones that comprise the upper jaw fuse and expansion through orthopedics is impossible without surgical assistance.