We know that Invisalign can correct many dental issues. Since it moves teeth, that raises the quest of whether it’s also a palatal expander.
No, Invisalign cannot expand your palate. While it can slightly widen your dental arch and alveolar bone, which surrounds your teeth, it will only expand that by 1-2 millimeters. There are other, more efficient ways you can expand your palate.
Invisalign Palatal Expansion
Similar to braces, Invisalign corrects dental issues like crooked teeth. It slowly moves some of your teeth and keeps them in place. Invisalign constricts your teeth in place, which means there will be little to no palatal expansion.
However, depending on your Invisalign’s design, it could slightly widen your dental arch and alveolar bone. If your Invisalign design helps correct minor crossbites, overbites, etc., it could expand those areas.
However, the expansion of the dental arch and alveolar bone will be very minimal. Most people will only have 1-2 millimeters of expansion. While it will help you get a slightly fuller smile, it will take a long time to see that minimal amount of expansion.
1-2 millimeters is not big enough to make a huge difference for most people.
For instance, proper palatal expansion from other devices or methods can help expand your airway. When you expand your airway, it decreases snoring and helps treat sleep apnea. Studies show that rapid maxillary expansion is an effective form of treatment for children who have obstructive sleep apnea (Machado-Júnior et al., 2016).
If you try to use Invisalign to expand your palate, your teeth will tip outward. It will be very counterproductive if you have issues like crooked or gapped teeth and want to use Invisalign to fix that.
Therefore, there are better ways you can quickly and effectively expand your palate than Invisalign.
Palatal expanders are one of the most common ways people can expand their palates. While it is most effective in children and teenagers, it can work for adults as well.
A palate expander applies force on the maxillary bones. The force will help separate the bones at the suture, which will expand the upper jaw and palate.
Depending on your needs, most palatal expanders stay in a person’s mouth for 6-12 months. It is essential not to remove the palatal expander too early. Your maxilla could relapse, which means it will go back to its regular size.
Most palatal expanders are not comfortable to wear, particularly for the first few days. However, they should not feel very painful. Most expanders will come with a key that you will use to turn the screw to expand your palate daily slightly.
There are many kinds of palatal expanders, but here are a few common ones.
Rapid Palatal Expander
This expander can correct crossbites, crowding, and narrow palates. It moves teeth within your alveolar bone while expanding your dental arch and palate. Many dentists and orthodontists will leave the device in your mouth once you achieve your desired expansion to allow for new bone formation.
If you are a mature adolescent, an orthodontist may suggest an implant-supported expander. It applies a heavier force to your palate, which you will need to expand your palate and jaw effectively.
Removable Palatal Expander
If you only need minor expansion, then your orthodontist might offer you a removable palatal expander. These look very similar to acrylic retainers. The only difference is that they are usually chrome.
Surgically Assisted Palatal Expansion
Once your jaw fully develops (typically after puberty or 21-25 years old), you may need surgically assisted palatal expansion. Your orthodontist will have to perform surgery to insert the expander into your palatal bone.
You can try mewing if you can afford to wait for a few years and do not want to wear a palatal expander. Most children can expand their palate in less than a year, while most teenagers take 1-2 years. However, though adults may have to wait several years, it can be very effective and consistently done correctly.
In general, soft mewing where you don’t apply any force to your palate is fine with Invisalign. Applying force consistently with your tongue during Invisalign treatment, however, could lead to tooth damage.
When you mew, you apply pressure to your palate, which will expand your palate. You have to make sure that you do it the right way and as often as you can. Otherwise, your results may take longer.
To learn how to mew correctly, see our guide.
However, if your palate is too narrow, you may not be able to mew. Your tongue will not have enough room to rest on your palate.
Even if you try to squeeze your tongue to fit in your palate, you may touch your teeth, which you do not want to do. Therefore, you would be better off with a palatal expander.
Can I Use Invisalign While Trying to Expand My Palate?
Invisalign locks your teeth in place, so you will need to wait until you are done with Invisalign to try expanding your palate. If you want to try hard mewing, it would be best to finish your Invisalign treatment first.
Palatal expansion could help avoid teeth crowding and the need for extractions (particularly for children). However, if you use Invisalign to fix crooked teeth, gaps, underbites, etc., it could be troublesome.
For one thing, you may not be able to wear a palatal expander while you wear Invisalign. Additionally, if you try to press on your palate with your tongue while wearing Invisalign, you might interfere with the Invisalign.
For instance, if the Invisalign brings your teeth in, you might push your teeth outwards while mewing, making the Invisalign practically useless. But if Invisalign pushes your teeth outward, then you’re good to go.
If you focus on pushing your tongue upward without touching your Invisalign, you could potentially see skeletal changes from mewing in addition to changes from Invisalign. It’s possible to get forward growth from mewing even though the Invisalign prevents your palate from expanding.
If you want to learn how to mew with retainers, which is similar to mewing with Invisalign, you can see our guide.