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Expansion plate, also known as a rapid palatal expander, rapid maxillary expansion appliance, palate expander, orthodontic expander, or Hyrax, is used to widen the upper jaw so that the bottom and upper teeth will fit together better. Although the use of an expander is most common in children it can be and has successfully been used in adults, although the effects of expansion are slightly more uncomfortable. Also, depending on the amount of correction, it may result in surgical separation of the top jaw. Use of a palatal expander is most often followed by braces to straighten out all the teeth now that room has been created.

The expansion process usually results in a large gap between the patient's 2 top front teeth, although this does not always happen. This gap is closed naturally and the teeth may overlap which leads to braces being needed. Sometimes with expanders, patients have to turn the expansion screw themselves to tighten up the expander. For an expansion that is not managed by the patient and on the lower jaw,  maybe a more suitable alternative.

 

When are palatal expanders needed?

  • Crossbite- Ideally, the upper jaw should outside of the lower jaw. But, in the case of cross-bite, both upper and lower jaw are misaligned causing crossbite scissor-like bite resulting in an increase in tooth wear tear, stain on jaw muscle and bite.
  • Crowding- It is easy to recognise whether the jaw is big enough to accommodate the permanent teeth of children or not. Widening of the jaw is a better option than the extraction of teeth at a later stage. However proper diagnosis and case selection are important in treating crowding cases. Over expansion can lead to a variety of issues in the future, such as gum recession, periodontal damage, root resorption, damage to the temporomandibular joint.
  • Impacted teeth- When the teeth have not yet erupted and are blocked by other teeth, palatal expanders can help to provide space for the teeth to erupt in their position.

 

Advantages

Palatal expanders are not only useful in correcting dental issues but also alleviates breathing problems and poor airflow in children. As discussed earlier, early intervention is the key to a successful orthodontic treatment. Keeping oral health in check leads to enhanced overall health.

  • Improves dental conditions- As discussed earlier, palatal expanders help in the treatment of crossbite, crowding, and impacted teeth. It improves the alignment of teeth by guiding them in their appropriate positions. Palatal expanders are used in conjunction with braces or prior to braces to make orthodontic treatment more effective.
  • Improved airflow - Some children may develop restricted nasal airflow because of insufficient spacing in the mouth. This can lead to problems like dry mouth, mouth breathing, and sleep apnoea. A palatal expander can facilitate improved breathing and nasal airflow by expanding the upper jaw.
  • Reduced need for surgical treatment- The need for surgical expansion treatment can only be prevented by early intervention. Palatal expanders can reduce the costs, time, and pain that may result from surgical treatment. Before puberty, the jaw structures of the children are not fully developed, thereby making it comparatively simpler to correct their structure through orthodontic appliances.

Drawbacks

  • Only effective in certain age groups-  Palatal expanders can not be used for all age groups. Children have better results with palatal expanders as compared to adults. Only a limited expansion can we achieved with adults as their jaws and maxilla are fully developed by the age 17.
  • Discomfort- Palatal expanders are metallic appliances and the patients may feel discomfort when they are placed in the mouth.
  • Time-. They are high-maintenance appliances and need considerable attention and instruction to follow to maintain them correctly.

Palate Expander treatment cost? 

The cost of palate expander orthodontic treatment will depend on case complexity and treatment length. The cost of palatal expansion treatment could range between $800-$2500.

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