What is a Jaw Expander and When It is Used?

Dr Pooja Langote
Pooja has done BDS. She is a dentist by profession and is devoted to creating bright smiles all around. She is an intense reader and is vibrant at heart. She aspires to become a healthcare administrator.

Jaw expander is the orthodontic appliance that is used for the correction of misaligned teeth. Misalignment of the teeth occurs due to the underlined dental or skeletal issues.

Widening of the arch with jaw expanders can resolve the misalignment of the teeth associated with dental as well as skeletal problems.


Jaw expander prevents, corrects or reduces the severity of jaw or teeth problems. Many orthodontic issues, such as bite correction, tooth impaction, crowding, etc., are corrected with jaw expander.

There are many types of jaw expanders available such as a rapid palatal expander, quad helix, Schwartz appliance, etc.

Each kind has a specific purpose and depending on what you need, the dentist will choose a suitable one for you.

If your dentist has recommended you the jaw expander and you are in doubt to get it or not, then let read ahead in this article for more clarity.

What is the jaw expander?

Jaw expander, also known as the jaw widener, used for the widening of the jaw. The primary goal of the jaw expander is to expand the jaw and to make room for the crowded teeth.

Tooth extraction is commonly practiced to create space. But in some cases, expansion of jaw serves as the best substitute for orthodontic tooth extraction.

When your kid’s primary teeth get replaced by the permanent substitutes, the jaw may not have enough space to accommodate the teeth, resulting in crowding and misalignment.

Malalignment of teeth mostly occurs due to the shortage of space to accommodate the teeth.

Hence, the expansion of the jaw is required in patients undergoing orthodontic treatment to create more space for the teeth alignment.

Uses of a jaw expander

Jaw expanders are used in certain orthodontic problems where they fix misalignment issues. They can address the following problems –


When the upper teeth get placed inside the lower teeth during occlusion, it creates crossbite. Development of crossbite happens due to the narrow upper jaw.

Hence, expanding the upper jaw with the help of upper jaw expanders can resolve the crossbite.

Deep bite

Deep bite occurs when the lower front teeth too close or into the gum behind the upper front teeth. Usually, the jaws are adequate in deep bite cases.

However, there are certain situations in which the upper jaw expansion is required for the correction of a deep bite.


Crowding results when the jaw is not large enough to accommodate all the teeth. In such cases, expansion of jaw help to create more space and relieves crowding of teeth.

Impacted teeth

The impaction of teeth occurs due to less space. When the tooth fails to erupt and blocked by another tooth, then the jaw expansion will cause the eruption of teeth on its own.

Types of jaw expanders

Upper jaw expander

Upper jaw expander, also known as a palatal expander, expands the roof of the mouth. The upper jaw is composed of two separate bones which do not fuse until the time of puberty. Hence, the expansion of the jaw performed in the growing phase.

In case, two separate bones of maxilla fuse together, then a surgical separation of bone is required before the expansion.

The upper jaw expander is the custom-made appliance which fits on the jaw bone and is attached to molar with the help of metal ring.

The design of the expander has two halves connected in the center with the screw. To activate the expander, your dentist will turn the screw a minimal amount each day with the special key (1).

The activation of expander creates the tension on the two shelves of bone causing them to move apart gradually. (2)

Once the desired expansion achieved, the dentist will allow leaving the appliance at the place until the new bone formation and stabilization occurs in the created gap. Usually, the expanders are worn for 3-6 months.

Upper jaw expander has following advantages –

  • It broadens the smile in an aesthetically pleasing way.
  • It limits the number of teeth that need to be extracted to create space.
  • It shortens the overall treatment time.
  • It improves breathing. (3)

Lower jaw expander

Our lower jaw bone or mandible are two separate bones prior to birth. But after birth, these two separate bones combine to form one single unit bone. Hence, jaw expansion cannot take place in case of the lower jaw.

Thus, lower jaw expander serves a different function than upper jaw expander. Lower jaw expander creates space by moving the teeth. It strengthens the teeth if they tipped inward or flares the teeth to create space.

Lower jaw expansion is only possible if there are enough gum and bone which cover the roots of teeth. Otherwise, tooth extraction might be the only way.

What to expect?

Initially, the use expander may cause –

  • Soreness.
  • Feeling of pressure.
  • Mild pain.
  • Ulceration on the tongue.
  • Difficulty in speaking and eating.

But expanders are less painful and uncomfortable than the traditional orthodontic braces. While using expander if you see a development of gaps in the front teeth, then do not worry much.

Once the complete orthodontic treatment ends, you will have perfectly aligned teeth.

How should you keep up with oral hygiene?

Maintaining good oral hygiene becomes essential when you undergo any orthodontic treatment. During orthodontic treatment, the dentist might put braces and appliances in your oral cavity.

These foreign materials increase the bacterial production and chance of dental diseases. Hence, it is essential to practice good oral hygiene. (4)


You should do following to keep up with good oral health –

  • Brush your teeth twice in a day. Use of an orthodontic toothbrush and fluoride-containing toothpaste are desired for better results.
  • Floss once in a day. Learn the correct flossing method from your dentist. You may end up with bracket removal if you do not floss in a correct manner.
  • Use fluoride containing mouthwash. Mouthwash maintains the oral health by removing the accumulated plaque, debris and bacteria from the mouth.
  • Avoid sticky food because that may get stuck beneath the expander.
  • Use water spray or water jet to remove the accumulated debris. The food particles often get lodged beneath the expander. Water spray can help you to clear the accumulated debris.
  • Use flexible palate cleaner as they can slide under the expander and push out the accumulated food under the expander.

Final words

Jaw expander may come with initial pain, soreness, and discomfort, but it can avoid the need for orthodontic tooth removal and improves the facial appearance.

It renders a beautiful aesthetic appearance as it can create the room for the crowded teeth without damaging the surrounding tissue.


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