A palatal expander, also called a jaw expander, helps young patients create more space in their mouth so that their adult teeth can grow in straighter and more comfortably. While “jaw expander” may seem like a scary term or a painful procedure, the treatment is quick, simple, and causes less discomfort than braces do. 

Why do children need jaw expanders?

Not every child needs to wear a palatal expander. Our orthodontists recommend it for patients who have small upper jaws, which prevent their teeth from growing in straight.

Someone with a small upper jaw may experience:

  • Overcrowded teeth: Teeth grow in too close together, or even overlap each other. This can be painful and make eating or talking difficult. 
  • Crossbites: Crossbites occur when the upper jaw is smaller than the lower jaw. This means the top teeth rest unevenly above the bottom teeth. 
  • Impacted teeth: A new tooth fails to “erupt” or emerge from the gums because there is no room. 

A palatal expander or jaw expander will help eliminate these problems. 

How do jaw expanders work?

Our orthodontists create custom expanders for each patient. They are built in two halves, which are connected by a screw. The device rests on the roof (otherwise known as the “palate”) of the mouth and is cemented to the mouth’s top molars. Every day the patient must use a key to turn the screw ever so slightly. 

Many patients find it surprising that a child’s upper jaw is much different from an adult’s! A child’s upper jaw is in two halves. These halves don’t fuse together until after puberty. By placing an expander early, patients can expand their jaws and create more space before this happens. 

Patients have to wear their expander for a few months. While the process may sound painful, it isn’t! Patients may experience some discomfort at first, but no more discomfort than someone who just had their braces tightened or adjusted. 

What are the benefits of a jaw expander?

Straighter, more beautiful teeth are the main benefit of a jaw expander!

However, there are a few other benefits of palatal expanders:

  • Better breathing: Children with a small upper jaw are often forced to breath through their mouth instead of their nose. 
  • Easier eating: Crooked, crowded, or impacted teeth make eating difficult and sometimes even painful. 
  • Shorter orthodontic treatments: Patients who expand their jaws with a palatal expander often find that the time they have to wear braces is shorter than average. This is because their teeth have an easier time growing in straighter. 

We recommend that parents schedule an orthodontic appointment for their child sooner rather than later so that any potential issues can be resolved quickly! To learn more about jaw expanders, request a consultation with our orthodontists in Easton, Allentown, Reading, and beyond.