Palatal Expander: A Successful Jaw expansion Technique

A Palatal Expander is also called as a rapid-palatal expander (RPE), orthodontic expander, rapid maxillary expansion (RME) appliance, Hyrax, or Haas that is used to widen the upper maxilla (jaw) so that the upper and bottom teeth will fit together better.

The maximum need of the expander occurs in children between the age of 6 and 13. Your child’s milk teeth will be replaced by permanent teeth; but unfortunately not every kid’s jaw is large enough to accommodate his adult set of teeth, resultant in misalignment and crowding.

Eliminating a tooth as a division of orthodontic treatment is one solution, but a lower or upper jaw expander can create room for your child’s permanent teeth without tooth extraction.

Palatal expander makes more space in a kid’s mouth by slowly widening the upper jaw. Though this may sound scary but it’s really very easy to do and even to tolerate. It’s because actually the upper jaw expands as two different halves that don’t absolutely fuse together until sometime after puberty. Before it happens, the two bones can quietly be separated and fastened over a period of several months.

Palatal expansion is a set of jaw expansion and tooth movement. It works through widening the two halves of the upper jaw, known as the palate. The two halves are connected together by a ‘suture’ in the centre of the top of the mouth. The orthodontist usage makes an expander for every patient. An expander can be removable or fixed.

This palatal expander is attached to the upper back teeth and makes it easy for the suture to part making the upper jaw wider. When the jaw extends, a new bone fills in between the two halves of the palate. This procedure is called distraction osteogenesis.

This process of expansion takes a few weeks to a few months; it’s all depending on the amount of expansion needed for an individual patient. It is generally worn for 4-6 months. All through the first few weeks of wearing, it’s essential to activate (expand) the appliances. Depending on the appliance, the RPE may need activation with a particular key or wrench.

You need to be aware of activating the appliance and manage it properly to get the desired results. A palatal expansion appliance can distinctly increase the upper jaw width. A wider jaw enables the teeth and jaw to function properly and contributes to a more attractive smile. For some cases, this expansion may prevent the requirement for extraction of the permanent tooth because space is made for the permanent tooth.

The three most common situations when maxillary (Jaw) expansion is needed:



When a kid’s upper jaw is too narrow to fit properly with the lower jaw, the back part of the roof teeth will bite inside of the lower teeth rather than outside. It can be corrected by expanding the upper jaw.



Without the need for teeth extraction, widening the upper jaw could create the required space. That will avoid the unnecessary crowding of teeth.


Impacted teeth:

When a tooth that has not come in or erupted yet and is blocked by the other teeth, expanding the upper jaw allows it to erupt at the correct position on its own. It is mostly happens with the eye teeth or canine – the pointier one’s placed directly under the eyes.


Widening The Upper Jaw Has Other Benefits:

It can expand the smile in an aesthetically pleasing way; it can confine the number of teeth that would require extraction to make space in the jaw and can also enhance breathing. It minimizes the overall orthodontic treatment time (the time your child is needed to wear braces).

Dr. Saraswati Agrawal
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  • Mhow Cantt, Indore