Skeletal and Dental Expanders

You might be here because you have questions about skeletal and dental expanders. In the following educational video, experienced Buffalo orthodontist Dr. Andrew J. Dusel explains the differences in design and function of skeletal expanders and dental expanders. If you still have questions after watching the video, please contact our office to arrange a free orthodontic consultation.

Download Our Free Early Treatment Orthodontics Guide

  • One of the first orthodontic treatments for children and adolescents is often the expander. The dental kind work on pushing teeth into better positions. Expanders may also be of the skeletal kind. These serve to widen the jaws physically.
  • The difference between these two is very simple. From the front, the skeletal expander is essentially invisible. However, there is a key underneath with a little screw in the middle which is turned at home. The procedure is painless and does not cause significant discomfort. A suture that runs up the middle of the upper jaw remains open until the age of about 12 or 13. If we can begin treatment at the appropriate age, we can adjust the upper jaw to the proper skeletal width.
  • We need to do that if we notice that the upper jaw is skeletally narrow (as per x-ray measurements) compared to the width of the head and the width of the lower jaw. Then, a skeletal expander can widen the upper jaw to the proper width.
  • Frequently, the next step is a dental expander that will push the teeth into a wider position. Measuring on an x-ray lets us know whether we need to use a skeletal expander first, or whether we just need a dental expander to push teeth into a better position. Although you don’t see anything at all from the front, it applies pressure from the inside toward the outside. And although the teeth may be a little tender the first couple of days, the typical adjustment period is just 2-3 days.
  • The process is very similar for the lower jaw, and the expander follows along the inside of the lower teeth, pushing from the inside toward the outside, putting pressure on the teeth and creating the added dental width to allow the space to straighten crowded teeth.

Download Our Free Early Treatment Orthodontics Guide