What Does a Palatal Expander Do?

before and after expander

Happy New Year everyone!  This week I am writing about palatal expanders, a tool we frequently use in orthodontic treatment.  

Most children and teens who need braces will get them during the middle school years.  However, some children also need a short course of orthodontic treatment earlier, during elementary school, to treat an emerging bite problem such as a crossbite or crowding.  The palatal expander is very effective at treating crossbites and crowding during the elementary school years.  

Please see the photo of a patient I treated at Chestnut Dental.  A palatal expander was use to correct both the crossbite and the crowding of the upper teeth. 

Prior to the treatment, there was a crossbite on the right side of the mouth and the upper canines were erupting at a sharp angle towards the neighboring teeth (see Before photo and x-ray image).  The expander was used to “expand” the upper jaw width to match the lower jaw width, which eliminated the crossbite (see After photo).  Simultaneously, the expander created space in the upper jaw so the upper canine teeth were less crowded and had more space to erupt.  You can see how the upper canine teeth started erupting more vertically into the correct location after the expansion (see After x-ray image).

For this patient, the expander corrected the crossbite, and aided the eruption of the upper canine teeth.  


Adam Donnell, DMD, MS
Orthodontist, Bedford and Needham offices

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