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Understanding Palate Expanders

Palate expanders are orthodontic devices designed to widen the upper jaw to correct various dental and skeletal issues. The Yuba City Dentistry Group recommends the use of palate expanders whenever necessary. If they are recommended for you or a loved one, here’s a closer look at the purpose of these expanders (also known as palatal expanders), their history, and who benefits from this type of device.

Purpose of Palate Expanders

Palate expanders are primarily used to widen the upper jaw when it is too narrow compared to the lower jaw, a condition that often leads to bite problems and crowded teeth. By expanding the upper jaw, these devices:

  • Improve the alignment of the upper and lower jaws (correcting crossbites),
  • Create space for crowded teeth, reducing the need for tooth extractions,
  • Facilitate the proper eruption of permanent teeth.

All of these steps serve to improve oral health, the look of the smile, and even the structure of the face.

History of Palate Expanders

The history of palate expanders dates back to the late 19th century. The early versions of palate expanders were quite rudimentary, being made up of simple jackscrews which applied pressure directly to the teeth rather than the palatal bones. Over time, various types of improved expanders were introduced, as both fixed and removable appliances. By the 1960’s and 1970’s, significant advancements in the design of palatal expanders offered more efficient and controlled palatal bone expansion.

Today a palate expander is custom-made for each patient and is securely attached to the upper molars using bands that are cemented around the teeth. The expander has a screw in the center that, when turned as directed by a dental professional, gradually widens the expander. This applies gentle pressure to the bones in the palate and forces them to spread apart.

Optimal Age for Palate Expanders

The best age to use a palatal expander is typically during childhood, between the ages of 7 and 14, when the jaw is still growing. This period is ideal because the bones in the palate have not yet fused, making them more responsive to expansion. Treatment at this age corrects jaw and bite discrepancies and makes room for permanent teeth, potentially simplifying or even eliminating the need for more complex orthodontic treatment at a later age.

Palate Expanders for Teens and Adults

While palate expanders are most effective in children, teens and adults also benefit from them in certain cases. For teens, the growth plates in the jaw may not have completely fused, allowing for ready expansion. In adults, although the process may be more challenging due to the fusion of the skeletal bones, surgical assistance makes expansion possible. This approach, known as surgically assisted rapid palatal expansion (SARPE), involves a combination of surgery and traditional palatal expansion techniques.

How Long Do You Wear a Palate Expander?

Palatal expander treatment duration varies, but typically ranges from a few months to a year. The active expansion phase, where the screw is turned regularly, usually lasts for several weeks to a few months. After achieving the desired expansion, the device is usually left in place for several months to stabilize the expansion and allow the bone to solidify and gain strength.

The Future Outlook for Palate Expanders

The future of palate expanders is closely tied to advancements in technology, particularly in the fields of digital imaging, 3D printing, and materials science. Some of the expected improvements include:

  • Further customization through 3D printing to tailor the device to the anatomy of each patient’s palate;
  • Digital scanning and imaging technology create better and more accurate expansion plans;
  • Less invasive techniques and lighter, more flexible materials to reduce discomfort;
  • Smart expanders equipped with sensors to monitor and automatically adjust the application of pressure to the palate bones.

As these and other improvements come into practical effect, our dentists will adopt these changes for the benefit of our patients.

Palate Expanders in Yuba City

Palate expanders are valuable orthodontic devices that address a variety of dental issues. At the Yuba City Dentistry Group we understand and use the most up to date technology for such devices. When used in conjunction with other orthodontic treatments like Invisalign, we provide our patients with oral health options that let them design their own beautiful smiles. Contact us today with any questions that you may have regarding the proper alignment of your jaw and teeth for years to come, including with the help of palate expanders!

Mar 28, 2024 | Cosmetic, Invisalign, Orthodontics

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