Palatal Expansion in Wakefield and Westerly, RI

An Effective Orthodontic Treatment for Various Conditions

Have you started to notice your child’s teeth are misaligned or crowded? Without treatment, it can become difficult for your child to do basic functions such as speaking and eating. At DeQuattro Orthodontics, Dr. Frank DeQuattro and our team are here to help your child get the care they need. 

We’re proud to offer palatal expansion to help prevent your child’s teeth from crowding and misaligning more. To learn more about this orthodontic treatment, call our Wakefield office at (401) 783-9890 or our Westerly office at (401) 596-2264.

What Is Palatal Expansion?

Palatal expansion is a common orthodontic procedure designed to widen the upper jaw gradually. This treatment involves the use of a device called a palatal expander, which is attached to the roof of the mouth. The expander applies gentle pressure to the teeth and palatal tissue, stretching the growth plate or suture located in the middle of the palate. This process encourages the two halves of the palate to move apart, allowing new bone to form in the center. 

While minor tooth movement may occur, the primary aim of palatal expansion is to broaden the upper jaw. It’s often recommended for patients with narrow arches, crowded teeth, crossbites, or other orthodontic issues. Depending on the individual’s needs, the expander may remain in place for several months to more than a year to achieve optimal results.

Benefits of Palatal Expansion

Palatal expansion is a valuable orthodontic treatment that offers a range of benefits for patients. Here are some of the benefits of palatal expansion:

  • Improves breathing and reduces symptoms of sleep apnea by creating more space in the nasal cavity
  • Corrects crossbites and helps to align the teeth properly
  • Reduces the risk of developing temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
  • It helps to create a more aesthetically pleasing smile and facial profile
  • Improves the function of the bite by creating more space for the teeth to fit together properly
  • Enhances oral health and reduces the risk of tooth decay and gum disease 

Who Qualifies for an Expansion?

Expansions are recommended for children whose jawbones are still growing and developing. The average age during this growing period is seven to 10 years old. This is the ideal time to start the process, as the jawbone is still developing and would be receptive to the treatment. This treatment can fix:

  • Misaligned bites (over, under, open, or crossbites)
  • Difficulty in chewing, speaking, sleeping, or breathing
  • Impacted teeth
  • Crowding

Patients who have already had their jawbone grown and developed may require TADS or surgery in addition to expanders. 

Diagnosis and Treatment Planning


If you suspect palatal expansion may be necessary for you or your child, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at one of our conveniently located offices in Wakefield or Westerly. 

Comprehensive Examination

During your initial consultation, our experienced orthodontists will conduct a comprehensive examination to assess your child’s oral health. The examination may include various diagnostic procedures such as X-rays, intraoral photographs, and impressions of the teeth. These diagnostic tools provide valuable insights into the alignment of the teeth, the structure of the jaw, and the oral health of the patient.

Treatment Planning

Based on the findings from the examination, our orthodontists will develop a customized treatment plan tailored to your child’s specific needs and goals, ensuring the most effective and efficient treatment possible. If deemed necessary to address issues such as crowding, crossbites, or airway obstruction, palatal expansion will be included as part of the treatment plan. 

Sometimes, it may be combined with other orthodontic appliances, such as braces or clear aligners, to achieve optimal results. We prioritize clear communication throughout the process, ensuring that both patients and parents understand the recommended treatment options and are comfortable with the proposed course of action.

The Palatal Expansion Process

Placement of Expanders

The expanders used in palatal expansion are typically affixed to the upper jaw by attaching them to the back molars. These appliances are designed with a screw mechanism positioned centrally within the expander, which can be activated using a special key.

Activation and Expansion

With each turn of the small screw, the expander gradually widens, exerting controlled pressure on the two palatal bones and stretching the growth plate on the roof of the mouth. Dr. DeQuattro will carefully monitor the process to ensure safe and effective expansion.

Sensations and Adjustments

During the expansion process, your child may experience various sensations. They may feel pressure against their teeth and behind their nose as the palate expands. Some patients may also experience temporary headaches, which can usually be alleviated with over-the-counter pain medication.

Adaptation Period

It’s common for patients to experience an increase in saliva production and may make slurping sounds initially. This adjustment period typically lasts a few days to a week as the patient becomes accustomed to the presence of the expander in their mouth.

Progress and Signs of Success

After a few days or weeks of turning the expander, you should begin to notice a space developing between your child’s front teeth. This space indicates the expansion is progressing as planned and is a positive sign of treatment success.

Closure and Braces

Once the desired expansion is achieved, the expander will be removed, and the space between the front teeth may close partially on its own. However, complete closure is typically achieved with the use of braces. Braces will further align the upper teeth and provide proper occlusion.

Post-Expansion Care

Following the palatal expansion process, the patient will be required to wear a retainer. The retainer helps maintain the new position of the upper jaw and prevents relapse. Consistent wear of the retainer as instructed by your Wakefield or Westerly orthodontist is essential for long-term stability and optimal treatment outcomes.

Caring for Your Expanders

Ensuring optimal care for your child’s expanders is crucial for successful treatment outcomes. Dr. DeQuattro recommends following these instructions diligently:

  • Perform the turns as prescribed, adhering to the recommended schedule.
  • Brush the expander daily as part of the regular oral hygiene routine.
  • Use a swishing motion or a small brush to effectively remove any food particles trapped above the expander.
  • If your child has a removable expander, make sure to brush and rinse it thoroughly each time it’s removed to maintain cleanliness and hygiene.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the risks or side effects of palatal expanders?
What food should I avoid while on expanders?
What happens if the expander breaks?
Can adults undergo palatal expansion?

What are the risks or side effects of palatal expanders?

While palatal expansion is generally a safe and effective orthodontic treatment, there are some risks and side effects to be aware of. These may include discomfort, speech difficulties, and changes to the bite. However, these side effects are usually temporary and can be managed with the help of an orthodontist.

What food should I avoid while on expanders?

When wearing expanders, it’s essential to be mindful of your diet to prevent damaging the appliance. Similar to braces, orthodontists advise avoiding certain foods that can potentially break the expanders. These include: 

  • Sticky and chewy foods like candies and chewing gum 
  • Hard and crunchy foods such as popcorn and nuts. 

As an alternative, we suggest opting for soft foods and snacks like yogurt and pancakes. For a treat, consider indulging in ice cream and soft cookies (without nuts and caramel) to satisfy your child’s sweet cravings while keeping their expanders safe.

What happens if the expander breaks?

If the palate expander ever breaks, immediately call your orthodontist’s office to schedule an appointment to have the appliance remade. In the meantime, completely remove the palate expanders from the mouth, as they can cut your child’s mouth.

Can adults undergo palatal expansion?

Yes, adults can undergo palatal expansion treatment, but the success of the treatment may depend on several factors, such as the amount of bone growth, the health of the gums and teeth, and the severity of the orthodontic issues being addressed. It’s best to consult with an orthodontist to determine if palatal expansion is a suitable treatment option for an adult patient.

Get Your Child The Care They Need

Palatal expansion can help prevent your child from developing poor oral health. If you believe your child requires this treatment, contact us at our Wakefield office at (401) 783-9890 or our Westerly office at (401) 596-2264 to schedule an appointment today. You can also fill out our online contact form, and our staff will get back to you as soon as possible. We’re proud to provide services to Narragansett, South Kingstown, Charlestown, and Weekapaug, RI.

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(401) 783-9890 or (401) 596-2264
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