Palatal expanders: a wider perspective

In many cases, orthodontic treatment may focus as much on bone alignment, positioning, and growth as it does on tooth placement. For instance, dental arches that are too narrow to accommodate all the teeth in the jaw may result in tooth crowding. Instead of extracting teeth, the orthodontist may elect to use an active appliance known as a “palatal expander” to widen the arch of the upper jaw. This appliance, which fits over all or part of the palate, is divided down the middle. Screws are used to provide outward pressure that forces open the lengthwise central joint (the “suture”) between the bones of the palate. A new bone grows in to fill the gap, and the palate widens.

A fairly large space will open between the upper front teeth as you continue opening the appliance. Don’t be alarmed it means that everything is working! Once you’ve stopped widening the appliance, the space will close naturally over the next few weeks. Schedule a free orthodontic consultation today!


A palatal expander is often used to treat a “crossbite,” when a child’s upper jaw is too narrow to fit correctly with the lower jaw and the top back teeth close inside the lower teeth.