In Montvale, NJ, and Across Bergen County

Palatal Expansion

Palatal expansion is a combination of tooth movement and jaw expansion. It works by widening the two halves of the upper jaw, called the palate. The two halves are joined together by a “suture” in the middle of the roof of the mouth. Palatal expanders are customized for each patient’s unique mouth. An expander can be fixed (bonded to the mouth) or removable. It attaches to the upper back teeth and eases the suture apart, which makes the upper jaw wider. As the jaw expands, new bone fills in between the two halves of the palate. This process is called distraction osteogenesis. Expansion can take a few weeks to a few months, depending on the amount of expansion required for an individual patient.

A rapid palatal expander (RPE), also known as a rapid maxillary expander (RME), is generally worn for four to six months. During the first few weeks of wear, it is necessary to expand (activate) the appliance. Activation of the RPE with a special key is required. Dr. Oh will provide detailed instructions on how to activate the appliance and operate it properly to achieve the desired results.

Making the Upper Jaw Wider

A narrow upper jaw may interfere with the function and fit of upper and lower teeth. Without correction, this may affect your child’s appearance and contribute to difficulties with biting, chewing, and speech.

A palatal expansion appliance can significantly increase the width of the upper jaw. Widening of the upper jaw by a palatal expansion appliance promotes the upper and lower teeth to properly fit together. This permits the teeth and jaws to function well and contributes to a broader, more attractive smile.

kid's mouth with missing teeth

  • How do I know palatal expansion is right for my child?

    Dr. Oh is in the best position to advise you on your child's need for expansion and which type of expansion appliance is best to correct your child's problem. Expansion is easiest, and results are most stable when performed on the growing child or teen.

    Palatal expansion improves the way the upper and lower jaws and the upper and lower teeth work. It widens the jaw, so there is sufficient room for the permanent teeth to come in. Expansion can make the final smile broader and more attractive. Without expansion, and depending on the problem, permanent teeth may not have enough space to come in, or the lower jaw could grow out of proportion, which could require corrective surgery as an adult. Left untreated, a narrow palate can lead to excessive dental work as an adult.

  • What is the best age for palatal expansion?

    Age alone is not the best predictor when a palatal expansion appliance should be used. Dr. Oh will make the assessment for you or your child if a traditional expander would be the best choice. If it is past the timing for traditional expander, Dr. Oh might suggest Micro-Implant Assisted Rapid Expander (MARPE) or Surgically-Assisted Rapid Palatal Expander (SARPE).

  • What can I expect?

    It may take a few days to get used to a palatal expander. Chewing, swallowing, and talking may be awkward at first. The mouth and nose may be sore or may tingle. Some patients report a slight headache. Talk with your orthodontist about over-the-counter analgesics to relieve discomfort.

    Even after a few days of expanding, you may notice space between the front teeth. This is a sign the appliance is working, and the palate is being expanded.

    Most patients require full orthodontic treatment (braces) following palatal expansion.

    Learn More About Braces

More Questions?

If you think that you or your child may be a candidate for a palatal expander, contact Montvale Orthodontics today for a consultation.

Montvale Orthodontics

305 W Grand Ave, Suite 600
Montvale, NJ 07645
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Monday: 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Tuesday: 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Wednesday: 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Thursday: 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Friday: 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Saturday: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM (every other week)



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