What is a Palate Expander?


A palate expander is a device worn over the tongue to expand the soft palate, the roof of the mouth, and/or both. The soft palate separates the nasal passages from the mouth and also helps you speak by supporting the tongue and keeping it in place so that you can form vowels and consonants properly. A cleft palate, sometimes called a hare lip, occurs when there’s an opening between your mouth and nose, allowing air to bypass your voice box and disrupt speech development.


For some, having an overbite can be embarrassing. A person with an overbite might be constantly teased by friends and family for looking different or unattractive. The truth is that having an overbite can have serious consequences; those who have one are three times more likely to suffer from sleep apnea than people without it, which greatly increases their risk of stroke.

If you’re interested in reducing your overbite but don’t want to go through cosmetic surgery, learn about palate expanders and how they work! What Are They? A palate expander is designed to gradually make your upper jaw bigger so that it eventually fills in part of your overbite space. These expanders usually start out as thin plastic pieces with wire-frame inserts at the front.

When inserted into patients’ mouths, these pieces stretch open mouthes into larger shapes –- giving adults that don’t want surgery a quick and easy way to enlarge their jaws permanently without putting themselves at any health risks! Who Should Use Them?

Why Do People Use Them?

The primary purpose of a palate expander is to help develop your child’s jaw muscles and oral motor function. A tongue-operated expander (or tongue depressor) rests on your child’s tongue, which she then lifts to expand her palate. Over time, as her mouth gets used to using its muscles in new ways, she will be able to keep it there longer.

This helps build endurance for future speech activities such as chewing and drinking. Children usually wear their expanders for 20 minutes per day; younger children typically start with shorter sessions and gradually increase duration over time.

Some children find that it hurts or feels weird at first, but most get used to it after several days or weeks of use. Still, no one says you have to walk around wearing an expander if you don’t want to! They are optional. If you have any questions about whether an expander might be right for your child, talk to your doctor.

She can rule out medical issues like TMJ disorder and make sure that ear nose and throat problems haven’t led to misaligned jaws—both of which could prevent her from expanding properly during treatment. Plus, she can let you know what she thinks about devices like palatal expanders versus other methods of treatment like physical therapy or other exercises.

It’s best not to skip these conversations—and do whatever it takes so that teeth don’t need pulling later down the road!

How Painful Are They

While palate expanders aren’t as painful as other orthodontic tools, they can still be uncomfortable. There are two types of expanders: acrylic and pressure-sensitive. The acrylic version requires you to wear it daily and keep it clean, while the pressure-sensitive is designed to be worn only at night so that you’re not constantly reminded that you have braces on.

If possible, try both versions out during your initial appointment before committing to one over another. A consultation with an orthodontist may also reveal information about when you can take off your expander—and how often you should wear them in general.

In addition to discomfort, tongue irritation is also common for people wearing their expander regularly. This usually happens due to constant exposure to moisture; if it does occur, contact your doctor for tips or materials that may help alleviate symptoms and provide relief from pain or irritation.

One potential solution would be to use wax paper instead of the included retainer if food particles are sticking in between teeth from speaking or eating too quickly. Although wax paper doesn’t fit perfectly around teeth, it’s able to separate spaces—making room for food debris to fall through instead of becoming trapped against gums.

The Procedure

The palate expander, also known as a mouth spreader, is inserted in your mouth to stretch and widen it. The device typically consists of two acrylic bars that are placed on top of each other. It’s secured inside your mouth with small elastic bands and held in place for several weeks to allow it to reshape your jaws.

This expander can feel uncomfortable at first, but most patients report improved speech and airway comfort after wearing one for about six weeks. An expander can be removed at any time during treatment; although, an alternative device must be worn in its place until completion of treatment. Be sure to discuss these options with your doctor before proceeding with any procedure or appliance.

Types of Plateaus

Your orthodontist might tell you that you have hit a plateau. This simply means your teeth aren’t moving at all. But there are three main types of plateaus and they are defined by how long they last. Plateaus can last weeks, months or even years if not treated properly

What About After You’re Done Growing?

Over time, your palate will continue to expand, thanks to your body’s natural bone-growth process. You can tell when your palate is done growing (for now) because it will have reached its maximum width and length.

At that point, you’ll probably stop wearing your expander—although some people choose to keep their expander in place for an extra week or two as a way of strengthening their mouth and jaw muscles further before they take it out permanently. It should be noted that you may still need to wear retainers on occasion if there’s any risk of crowding developing again in future years. However, if you don’t wear your retainer consistently enough, more crowding can happen quickly.


Your palate is made up of bones in your mouth that are covered by gums. Over time, these bones can stop growing, which causes difficulty with certain sounds. A palate expander slowly expands these bones so they grow to normal size and adults can make more distinct sounds. In most cases, you need to wear a palate expander for about six months before it’s removed and you’re ready for speech therapy.

With oral surgery involved, a palate expander isn’t pleasant—and it might be difficult at first. But over time, many people find their ability to speak improves drastically. If you want to learn more about palates and how they affect speech. Or if you’d like to schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor, call us today!

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