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The Power of Mouth Expander Appliances

Mouth expander appliances play an important role in the overall growth and development of the airway. They can help improve breathing, sleep, eating, and a number of other activities. In this post, we will discuss how the appliances work and what conditions they can help to treat. We’ll also go over he different types of custom-fitted mouth expanders available on the market, how to care for and maintain the appliance, and the benefits of regular use.

What is a Mouth Expander Appliance?

Mouth expander appliances are oral devices used to remedy several common dental and airway conditions. These devices are most commonly used in pre-adolescent children but can also be used in teens and adults. If your child has a crossbite or narrow upper jaw, a dentist may recommend using a palate expander to correct it.

Your jaw isn’t the only thing that the expander widens. As your palate broadens, the two halves separate, and new bone forms in the middle. This opens your airway, allowing you to breathe easily through your nose. 

An open airway reduces congestion and can even help prevent recurring sinus infections. Along with improving your breathing, expanders can also help prepare your teeth for further work, including braces and clear aligners. Using an expander before more extensive orthodontic work on adults and children can reduce the amount of time that has to be spent in braces, making the process smoother and less uncomfortable. 

Some Mouth Expander Appliances Available Today

Removable palate expander

A removable palate expander looks similar to a retainer, but it’s made from medical grade silicone instead of metal or acrylic. Your dentist might recommend a removable palate expander if you only need to widen your jaw slightly, and is always coupled with myofunctional therapy – tongue force will help provide forces to move teeth/bones.

Rapid palate expander

A rapid palate expander fits in the roof of your mouth and attaches to your back upper teeth for stability. There’s a tiny screw in the middle that you turn a little bit every day with a unique palate expander key. These can be fixed to the teeth, or they can be removable.  Over time, this tension moves your two palatal bones apart, widening your jaw.  

Implant-supported palate expander (MSE/MARPE)

Typically reserved for teens and adults, this palate expander applies force to four mini dental implants rather than your teeth. This allows your provider to apply pressure directly to your upper jaw.  This allows for true bony expansion which can improve the nasal and oral airway, not just pushing on the teeth to move them orthodontically outwards.

With this palate expander, your orthodontist will work closely with an oral surgeon or periodontist, who’ll place the dental implants.

Surgically assisted rapid palate expander (SARPE) or Distraction Osteogenesis Maxillary Expansion (DOME)

Surgically assisted palate expanders are often used for moderate to severe cases or for adults who have fully developed facial bones. An oral surgeon places this expander into your mid-palatal suture (the line where your palate’s left and right sides meet). Like rapid palate expanders, these devices rely on your back upper teeth for support.

Why Might I Need a Mouth Expander Appliance?

  • They are best in children and adults with a narrow dental arch, narrow palate, and small airway, or even a narrow jaw and crossbite.
  • These issues sometimes come from mouth breathing, sleep apnea, overextended pacifier use, etc. 
  • Mouth expanders are not a cure for sleep apnea, but they can help alleviate symptoms. Mouth expanders in connection with myofunctional therapy are a better way to reshape and retrain the facial and mouth muscles. 

Will a Mouth Expander Appliance Hurt?

Expanders are moving bones in the mouth, so some soreness after each activation is possible and expected. There can be initial discomfort, but what we find is that it is more of a feeling that “something new” is in the mouth.  Children have less discomfort and adapt well, often more quickly than adults. The result is worth the initial change. You’ll have better breathing, leading to better sleep and a more open airway.

Schedule an Appointment at Untethered Airway Health Center

The power of mouth expander appliances is incredible. They can help patients who suffer from sleep apnea, a crossbite, a narrow jaw, and more. At Untethered Airway Health Center, we are committed to providing you with the best information and options for your needs. We want you to take pride in your smile and have a lifetime of successful sleep to be the healthiest you possible. If you have questions or think you may benefit from a mouth expander appliance, you can schedule a virtual consultation with Dr. Turner today.

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