As part of my orthodontic treatment to fix my underbite, I had the pleasure to experience the effect of a palatal expander. Judging from a lot of questions I see online, a palatal expander for adults is something that a lot of people doubt is effective. I got mine when I was 27 and it had a clearly visible effect on my palate after just a few months of wearing it. I had no idea that my upper palate was too narrow before I started the treatment, so it didn’t see the point of it first. Boy, was I wrong! I am in awe of the before and after pictures and became a total believer in the importance of orthodontic health. My orthodontic treatment came with many revelations and the miracle that a palatal expander can work on you was the first. In this article I will share my personal experience with the palatal expander as an adult and answer some of the most pressing questions I keep seeing on the subject – I hope it will help clarify these questions!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and do not pretend to be one. I am simply sharing a personal experience of mine in this article. Please consult a medical professional for advice on any health problems that you might have.
What is a palatal expander & how does it work?
A palatal expander is a tool sometimes used as part of an orthodontic treatment with the goal of expanding the upper palate. It is made up of two plates joined by a screw in the middle, with metal grips on the outside to hold on to your teeth. It’s custom made by your orthodontist to fit your palate. The screw is turned once per agreed upon time frame (for me it was once per week) so that the plates move apart slightly, increasing the pressure on your teeth to move aside and your palate expands as a result. Depending on your age this is either done by the orthodontist, your parents or yourself. Some are permanently installed by your orthodontist and can only be removed by him. This is often done with children who might not be dedicated enough to ensure to wear the device around the clock. I got it as an adult and was lucky enough to be able to remove mine myself for eating and brushing my teeth, saving me from having food trapped in between my upper palate and the expander after every meal.
Duration of the palatal expander treatment
My orthodontist estimated 6 months at first, however, in the end it took mere 3,5 months to completely transform my smile! It seems to be typical to wear it for 6-9 months.
In the first week I experienced discomfort and sore teeth. The pressure forces the teeth to become loose to be able to move, but once they are mobile the pain goes away. Only slight pressure remains, but the teeth keep moving and slight pain only comes back for a couple of days whenever you adjust the expander.
In the first week my speech was definitely affected, since the tongue hits the roof of your mouth a lot sooner than usual with a foreign object in the way. My speech sounded muffled and I had lisp – here is an example of how I sounded like right after getting the palatal expander in. But I adjusted very quickly and soon you couldn’t almost hear any difference whatsoever (here is a video of me speaking with the palatal expander in for 1 month and here is my speech after 3,5 months).
By now my treatment with the palatal expander is over two years back, but I sure still love to dig out those before and after photos once in a while. I hope anyone going through the discomfort of an orthodontic treatment can find some relief in this article and the pictures.