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How Do Palatal Expanders Work?

palatal expander

Grayslake, IL – Palatal expanders seek to accomplish exactly what the name says – expand the palate. But how exactly does it work, and will your child need one?

A palate that is too narrow can lead to crooked and overcrowded teeth. A palatal expander can be a wonderful option for younger orthodontic patients who have jaws that are still growing. The expander can work to widen the palate to allow for teeth to be realigned with adequate space.

Expanders provide a non-invasive way to ensure the shape of the upper jaw can accommodate all of the permanent teeth and match the lower jaw.

If your child is an ideal candidate for an expander, there are a few things to know.

  1. The palatal expander has to be placed in the mouth in order to work. The palatal expander is placed in the roof of the mouth, with its legs wrapped around some of your child’s molars.
  2. In order to achieve expansion of the palate, the expander must be activated. This is done by using a key that snaps into place in the expander and turning the key manually. Over time, this widens the roof of the mouth.
  3. Turning of the key should be done by someone other than the patient. It is easiest for the patient to lie flat and have another person give the key a few turns.
  4. The expander will remain in place until the orthodontist feels adequate expansion has been reached. Expanders typically remain in place at least six months but can also be in as long as one year.
  5. Once expansion has been reached, the palatal expander is not removed right away. This is because the orthodontist needs to allow for plenty of time for the patient’s body to respond by filling the necessary bone at the suture.
  6. If the expander is removed too early, the upper jaw can relapse and the growth that was achieved will not hold.

The best way to determine if your child is an ideal candidate for palatal expansion is through a consultation with a certified orthodontist. Certified orthodontists like Dr. Stosich have the training and experience to be able to diagnose and treat your child’s orthodontic issues with the most ideal treatment option to provide the best results.

Palatal expanders can be used for many reasons, including:

  • Correcting crossbites – this is the most common reason children require palatal expanders. Crossbites can make it difficult for patients to eat because of how unevenly the molars fit together.
  • Relieve impacted teeth – impacted teeth get stuck under the surface and can’t erupt due to being blocked. This happens most commonly in the back of the mouth. Palatal expansion can relieve these impacted teeth, which can prevent infection, abscesses and jaw pain.
  • Correcting overcrowding – crowding causes crooked teeth because there isn’t enough room in the jaw to allow the teeth to align properly.

Palatal expanders are most commonly used in children under the age of 13. At this age, most of the adult teeth will have erupted, but the jaw will still be growing. This means it can more easily and painlessly be expanded.

If palatal expansion is deemed appropriate for your child, Dr. Stosich will explain how the expander will be placed and discuss how to properly activate the expander. He and his team will also discuss proper care of the expander, including how to brush and floss to keep it clean and explain what foods to avoid while the expander is in place.

Dr. Stosich provides the most customized treatment for every patient. His palatal expanders are 3D custom printed for each patient, providing the safest and most comfortable fit. Dr. Stosich has years of experience and expertise in administering and monitoring orthopedic devices such as palatal expanders, so your child will be in the most capable hands throughout their time in treatment.

Palatal expanders are an incredibly versatile orthodontic appliance that allow orthodontists to guide the growth of the jaw to ensure a harmonious bite and beautiful smile. To learn more about if palatal expansion is right for your child, call Dr. Stosich today at either of his conveniently located offices, Kenilworth (224-408-2200) and Grayslake (847-548-4200).


  • Michael S. Stosich, DMD, MS, MS

    Dr. Michael Stosich is a board-certified orthodontist and the director of orthodontics at the University of Chicago Medicine. He is known for his extensive experience in leading clinical enterprises, publishing, and lecturing both in the U.S. and internationally. Dr. Stosich has expertise in starting, growing, and maintaining successful orthodontic practices, including those in pediatric dentistry, general dentistry, and multi-specialty clinics. He serves on the editorial board of several publications and has been involved in innovating patient care and education, focusing on the future of dental and orthodontic healthcare.

Stosich Consulting