If you or your child is undergoing orthodontic treatment, you might hear the orthodontist mention appliances. There are several types of appliances that might be entering your life. One such appliance that your Newton Centre orthodontist might have you wear is an expander, or more precisely, the palatal expander.

When is a palatal expander used?

If your upper bite and the palate of your mouth (the roof of your mouth) is too narrow to meet the lower bite properly, the palate will need to be expanded. The expander is used on people under the age of 15, because the bone has not yet set and can still be changed without surgery.

Some are permanently fixed to the teeth, while others are a removable retainer.

How does it work?

The mechanism that drives the expansion is a simple screw. The retainer has two halves that are connected by a screw that gets turned slowly. The wearer is in control of the turning, via a small key.

What is the effect?

After wearing the appliance for a time, the wearer will often notice a gap forming between the two front teeth. This is a temporary situation, and further orthodontic work will correct it. A further effect is pain. Just as when the teeth are moved from braces, the teeth and jaw will hurt. And just as with braces, over-the-counter pain killers, ice and soft foods are your first defence.