When medical professionals use big medical terms like “palatal” and “maxillary expansion,” it’s not always clear what these words might mean. And they can sound scary. Often, though, they’re just medical terminology for parts of the body or medical procedures. We’ll try to explain these terms and their uses in simpler terms.
The “palate” is another word for the roof of your mouth — it’s the bony or muscular partition that separates the oral cavity of the nose and the mouth. It consists of two parts: the soft and hard palates. The soft palate is the muscular part at the rear, while the hard palate is the bony portion in the front top of your mouth, near the teeth. “Maxillary” refers to what’s attached to the jaw or jawbone, such as the upper jaw.
When the jaw is too narrow, your doctor or dental professional may suggest a maxillary expansion. This widens the jaw to make room for teeth in younger patients, to correct or improve the way the upper and lower jaw work together, and improve breathing. It can also broaden your smile.
Maxillary Expansion in Adults
Two types of palate maxillary expansion techniques are generally used for adults: the MSE Expander non-surgical device (best for ages 17-35), and surgically-assisted maxillary expansions (SAME).
- MSE Expander: With this non-surgical expander, a fixed orthodontic appliance is attached to the back molars, crossing over the upper arch. It applies a gentle force to push against the teeth and expand the palate and jaw.
- SAME: Because the bones are already developed in older patients, SAME is used when appliance expanders are unable to do the job on their own, or for moderate to severe cases. In this instance, the doctor makes small cuts along the jaw to create symmetrical segments that can be broadened or adjusted over time.
SAME is both effective and performed under general anesthetic. Following surgery and recovery, the treatment can take several months to a year to achieve the desired results, with incremental adjustments to expand the palate.
Some minor discomfort may occur for the first few days as your body adjusts to the expansion pressure. You may even see spaces appearing between your front teeth over time as the bones separate. Once the expansion is complete, orthodontic treatment can close the gaps between your teeth. Good stability is expected long-term, with no significant relapse.
Why Would I Need Palate Maxillary Expansion?
At Airway and Sleep Group, we’re most concerned with your ability to breathe and sleep properly. The palatal maxillary expansion procedure is often used to resolve issues related to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) or to open airways and the nasal cavity to improve breathing. Other reasons for its use can include modifications for crooked or crowded teeth or a crossbite.
A narrow bone structure in the face could be causing OSA or TMD. We may suggest a sleep study to evaluate the amount of airflow during sleep and how much carbon dioxide is in the blood. We’ll also monitor for sleep interruptions and things like brain activity and heart rate. If we discover that poorly aligned teeth or a small jaw are the cause, we may recommend a maxillary expansion to solve breathing issues.
Sleep Apnea and Adult Palatal Maxillary Expansion at Airway and Sleep Group
The team at Airway and Sleep Group helps improve sleep-disordered breathing issues through various techniques, including palatal maxillary expansion. If you’re suffering from sleep apnea, come talk to us.
Airway and Sleep Group is located in Reston, Virginia to serve patients throughout Northern Virginia and the Washington D.C. metropolitan region. Contact us to schedule an appointment by calling 571-244-7329, or using our convenient online contact form.