If you found out you need to get teeth expanders, you probably have some questions. You may be thinking, “Will this be painful?” or “What exactly does it do?” These are all valid questions when thinking about getting an expander.

Looking for an orthodontist in Fort Dix Army Base, NJ? Bordentown Braces is a perfect match for you! From this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about teeth expanders. There is a lot of information to cover, so let’s get started!

What is a Palatal Expander?

A teeth expander is a device that enlarges your mouth. This creates more room by slowly expanding the jaw. It sounds a little scary, but do not worry! It’s done so gradually that it’s bearable.

Expanders can be used to fix issues early on so that they do not become bigger problems.

When Do I Need an Expander?

You will need a palatal expander when your mouth falls into of one these three categories:

  • You have a crossbite
  • Your teeth are crowding
  • You have impacted teeth

If this is confusing, don’t worry! We will cover each one briefly.


You will need to wear an expander if you have a crossbite. This is when your upper jaw is narrower than the lower jaw, causing the top back teeth to be inside the lower back teeth. The expander makes room for your teeth and removes the crossbite.

Crossbites get confused with underbites often, however, crossbites are when the upper and bottom rows of teeth do not line up with each other. This can happen when adult teeth grow in before your baby teeth fall out, or you sucked on your thumb a lot as a child.


Another reason you might need an expander, is if your teeth are crowded. This is when your teeth do not have enough room in your mouth. They may overlap or push on each other.

Teeth expanders are useful in creating space in your mouth. An orthodontist can tell by looking at your baby teeth if you have enough room for your incoming adult ones. Widening the upper jaw with a palatal expander makes sure your teeth will come in without causing any problems.

Impacted Teeth

Teeth are considered impacted when a growing tooth is blocked by other teeth. Expanders make room for that new tooth to come in. Canines are the most commonly impacted teeth, because of their location in your mouth.

What’s the Best Age for a Palatal Expander?

Teeth expanders are most effective in a certain window. Children not fully grown can get the most benefit out of expanders, as they can adjust the jaw easier.

The age limit is 12 – 13 for girls and 13 – 14 for boys. Older children can also use expanders, however they may not be as effective. The age limits can also vary slightly between children.

If teeth do not have enough room to grow, this may cause other dental issues later on. It is best to catch and correct these problems early in children, so that the expander can be more effective.

Expanders for the Upper Jaw

There are two main types of teeth expanders- one for the upper jaw and one for the lower. An upper jaw expander slowly increases the space in the top of your mouth by expanding your palate.

Over time, the palatal expander is widened. Do not worry, orthodontists won’t widen it too much at once! After the expander treatment is complete, sometimes there is a gap left between teeth. This is easily fixed with a retainer.

Expanders for the Lower Jaw

A lower jaw expander works a little differently. There is no cartilage here like there is in your palate, so the expander moves your teeth directly instead. Lower expanders can also fix teeth that are crowded or leaning in too much, by spreading out your lower teeth.

Will it Hurt?

There will be some discomfort at first, but there will not be a lot of pain. The expander may feel heavy in your mouth at first, since it is something new and different in there.

When the palate expander is widened, you may feel some pressure in your mouth and on your tongue. The pressure may even spread to your eyes and nose, but this will go away after a while. There is some discomfort involved, but do not worry. You will not be in excruciating pain!

How Long Do I Wear It?

Typically, 1-3 weeks. Some patients need longer, but not usually longer than 6 months. Sometimes the bones in your mouth just take longer to adjust and need time to form.

What’s This Key For?

After getting your expander in, your parent will be given a key. This is used to widen the expander at determined times. Your parent will be given specific instructions on how to do this.

What Else Should I Know?

There are diet restrictions when you have an expander in, just like with braces. Avoiding hard foods is important. Your orthodontist will give you a list of foods that you can’t eat during treatment.

Expanders can be expensive, before insurance that is. Insurance will usually cover the entire cost, since teeth expanders are necessary for good dental health.

You need to have good hygiene too. With a foreign object in your mouth, there is a higher chance of bacteria getting in. Make sure you take the time to brush your teeth and frequently clean your expander. A water flosser can remove bacteria and food that you can’t reach from your mouth.

Some side effects include producing extra saliva, headaches, or having difficulty speaking. These are of course temporary and disappear as you adjust.


That was everything you need to know about teeth expanders! They are an important part of straightening out adolescents teeth and set up the mouth to grow in healthy, new teeth. There is little pain involved in this treatment and the process normally does not take a long time. You can be comfortable knowing that soon your mouth will have room for all the teeth you need.