Palatal expanders are a good way to learn the bones about teeth. Palatal expanders are placed in the roof of the mouth and this is one appliance that actually allows us to grow bone and change the shape of the upper jaw. Palatal expanders are one of the most common orthodontic appliances, and are very beneficial to growing children.



Expanders can be fixed or removable and come in many different types. The type Dr. Renick chooses most frequently is the hyrax palatal expander, which has a key turn mechanism that the patient turns at home. However, other kinds of expanders are available and are chosen on a case by case basis. During your consult with our orthodontist, she will diagnose the problem and determine which form of expander will give the patient the best result. All expanders are custom made to each patient.


upper dental arch

The purpose of a palatal expander is to develop (or grow) the upper dental arch. There are three main benefits to widening this arch:

  • Correcting posterior crossbites
  • Creating space for some of the upper teeth to erupt properly, particularly impacted cuspids (canines or eye teeth)
  • For growth modification in coordination with a facemask to orthopedically bring the upper jaw forward. This type of expander will have hooks on it where the facemask attaches


jaw photos

Sometimes, the top jaw does not grow wide enough, which is why you may be referred for a consult with the orthodontist. There may be a genetic cause or an environmental cause such as a thumb sucking habit. The expander is a way to develop the upper arch either by rounding out the bone (alveolar process) or by literally separating the two halves of the roof of the mouth.

We know that we have been successful in widening the upper jaw when we see a space form between the two central incisors. Each incisor is on each half of the palate. Don’t worry! We will close the space!


more jaw photos

Expansion allows the upper and lower jaws to come together properly and can reduce the problem of tooth crowding without the need for extractions of permanent teeth. The upper arch is meant to be slightly bigger than the lower arch so that the top teeth fit over the bottom teeth like a lid on a box. The lid doesn’t fit the box if it’s too small. The same can be said about the upper and lower jaws.


Choice paths

When choosing between a fixed or removable expander, Dr. Renick prefers the fixed expander because of the importance of holding the jaw correction after the expansion until the bone has time to remodel. She prefers the “one and done” approach and, in most cases, her patients don’t have to revisit the expander treatment at a later time.


Question Mark Bubbles

Dr. Renick will leave expanders in for a MINIMUM of six months to stabilize the correction. While the actual expansion of the upper arch will only take a couple of weeks, the suture created will close again if the expander is removed immediately. Extended times may be because the expander can be used for other tooth movements in the mouth. Orthodontic technology has improved over time to the point that the expanders can be easily and comfortably adjusted.


penguin in scrubs

It is important to note that true expansion of the two halves of the upper jaw can only occur at a younger age which is why it is important to have your child screened for certain problems early. Past a certain age, the two halves of the upper jaw fuse and become one. For adults with posterior crossbites and upper arch constriction, expansion is still possible, but it requires a surgical intervention to separate the two halves of bone again.


If you would like to see if your child could benefit from a palatal expander in Sunbury and Delaware, Ohio, call Renick Orthodontics at 740-936-5003 to schedule an appointment.