For children born with a cleft lip and palate, isolated cleft palate or alveolar cleft, palatal expansion may be used as part of a staged treatment to better align the upper and lower jaw, make room for adult teeth, and improve the child’s overall appearance. Palatal expansion may also be used as a treatment for children with a small or narrow upper jaw.
In most cases, palatal expansion is performed in the mixed dentition phase — age 5 to 7 — when the child’s permanent teeth are beginning to develop.
The palates in patients with clefts tend to be narrow and collapsed. Palatal expansion prepares your child for subsequent bone grafting by pushing out and aligning the alveolar segments (gums), creating space for permanent teeth.
During this procedure, an orthodontist — working closely with an experienced plastic surgeon — places the expander device into the child’s upper jaw, and secures it to the teeth or bones. Then, the specialized device is expanded over a period of months to slowly widen the jaw to a normal state.
Published March 2019