Everything You Need To Know About Palatal Expanders

For patients looking for a straight smile, the path to perfect alignment can sometimes feel a little windy. Orthodontic treatment comes in many forms and looks different for each individual, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. With many years of experience with all kinds of orthodontic conditions, Dr. William Kottemann, Dr. Kraig Kottemann, Dr. Scott Kottemann, and Dr. Alisha Holt are pros at determining which tools to use to give you the best results, and one of these tools is a palatal expander

At Kottemann Orthodontics, we provide each patient with a straight smile plan designed specifically for their needs. If you have a narrow mouth, you’ll most likely need a palatal expander to give your teeth extra room to fall in line. These appliances are excellent tools for aligning your teeth, and we’re here to tell you everything you need to know about palatal expanders so you can feel confident in your treatment plan. 

Narrow Palates

Our Kottemann 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 properly. 

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 even 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. 

How can a palatal expander help?

Palatal expanders work best for younger patients whose mouths are still growing. The palate of your mouth is made of two separate bones that meet in the middle. When you reach puberty, these bones fuse together. 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 wider palate and more space in your mouth for your teeth to line up properly. 

Everything You Need To Know About Palatal Expanders

How does it work? 

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. Kottemann attaches the palatal expander to your teeth, he’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.

Types of Palatal Expanders

Just like braces, there are several types of palatal expanders on the market designed for patients with different conditions and needs. 

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. 

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. 

Tips & Tricks

Palatal expanders are unique orthodontic tools. Here are some tips and tricks from the pros for taking care of them! 

Tip #1: If you feel discomfort when adjusting your expander, Drs. William, Kraig, and Scott Kottemann as well as Dr. Holt suggest adjusting your appliance at night so you can sleep through it. 

Tip #2: Avoid sticky or crunchy foods that might harm your expander. 

Tip #3: Trust the process! When we first apply your palatal expander, it might take some getting used to. 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!

Everything You Need To Know About Palatal Expanders

For Best Results, Visit Kottemann Orthodontics

For over 60 years and three generations, the Kottemann family has given your family the highest-quality orthodontic care. With four convenient locations, your straight smile is always right around the corner. 

The team at Kottemann Orthodontics has all the tips and tricks for helping you get the straight smile you deserve. Schedule your free consultation today to learn more about how we can help! If you’ve got crowded or crooked teeth, ask our doctors if a palatal expander is right for you.