Expanders – sometimes called palatal expanders - are orthodontic devices that are inserted into the mouth behind the upper front teeth to expand the jaw while it is still growing. Although they can be used in adults, they are most often used in children while the upper jaw is still developing and before it attaches fully in the skull.
Expanders are most useful in creating more space for teeth in the jawbone and can help with:
Generally expanders are used for no more than 4-6 months in children under the age of 12, and work by being progressively widened every day (sometimes twice a day) using a special small key. Expanders can also be a part of a removable plate.
Expanders can be used for adult treatment as well, but this will often be in conjunction with other treatment, such as orthognathic surgery.
As with removable plates, expanders can cause some initial difficulties with eating and speaking, while the wearer's mouth gets used to the appliance. The same restrictions apply i.e. avoiding sweet and sticky foods and making sure that the expander is kept clean.