How Palate Expansion Helped Our Sons' Sinus Issues

Natural Sinus Treatment - Chronic Sinusitis

We've had many health issues in our family - candida, gut health, life-threatening food allergies, autism, low iron, anxiety, hay fever, and more. But one of the most persistent issues has been chronic sinusitis--inflammation of the sinuses.  I have mild sinus issues due to seasonal allergies at different times of the year, and my sons had varying degrees of sinus problems that plagued them throughout their childhood.

I'm not one to go for the meds in these cases because of what I went through myself throughout my life.  I took way too many allergy meds throughout my life, and even ended up overdosing on Afrin (a nasal decongestant spray), which is NOT a pleasant experience.

So I'm always looking these days for a natural solution to our ailments.  I know we seem a little "uber crunchy" for some, but in an effort to avoid meds, we've used the following natural remedies:

When it came to my sons' sinus issues, pretty much every night I would have to clean out my youngest's nose as he would have daily buildup of mucus and such that would make night breathing difficult for him (and anything that disturbs a little one's sleep will for sure disturb mom's sleep, so it's best to find a solution if at all possible.

Between the two of my boys, my oldest had the worst of the sinus problems - apparently it was chronic sinusitis. His nose was pretty much clogged all. the. time.

His voice was constantly nasally, he was blowing his nose all the time (but it pretty much yielded no benefits) and he would even chew with his mouth open since he just couldn't breathe.

I don't know about you, but I can't stand having a clogged nose. I felt so bad for him.

We tried so many things for my oldest. He's been on a candida diet for a long time, has been gluten-free as well since approximately age 8 after his diagnosis with Asperger's Syndrome, and he has been dairy-free his whole life since dairy is one of his life-threatening food allergies.

We even tried natural saline sprays.

Nothing worked.

Fast forward to about 1 year ago.

We were going around town looking for an orthodontist to work on my sons' teeth. I really thought that my oldest's teeth were pretty straight and that he didn't need much work, but my youngest's were fairly crowded on the bottom.

So we visited one orthodontist to see what he thought.

***He recommended braces for both boys. I hadn't noticed it, but my oldest's midline was off a bit and needed work.
For my youngest, he recommended an expander and braces. We call him "Goober" sometimes and Goober had inherited my narrow upper jaw.

I left with my $6000 estimate in hand, feeling the pain, but knowing it was worth it to take care of my boys.

We ended up getting a second opinion (a good idea when you're about to drop $6K) and then a third.  At the third orthodontist's office we sat down--once again--to get a free consultation.

The result?

I was shocked.

In the middle of the consultation, the orthodontist asked:

"So, do your boys have sinus issues?"

"Ummmm..Yes," I replied, not knowing why he was asking this.

"I thought so," he said.

He poked around in my sons' mouths again for awhile and then stepped aside to tell me his recommendations.

Expanders for both boys, in addition to the already mentioned braces for both.

I really couldn't believe it.

See, my oldest's upper jaw was quite wide so I couldn't think there was any way he would need to be expanded. Plus the other orthodontists hadn't suggested it. So I sat there in disbelief, and then asked "Why?" Why did my oldest need an expander when his upper jaw was already so wide?

The orthodontist proceeded to show me the problem.

Though my oldest's upper jaw appeared to be the right size, in comparison to his lower, it was still narrow.

He then proceeded to explain more about his reasoning.

The Problems of a Narrow Jaw or Narrow Palate

When the jaw is too narrow, the breathing passages are compromised.

can lead to all kinds of issues including:

Chronic Sinusitis Can Lead to:

  • lower oxygen concentration in blood
  • mouth breathing
  • poor growth and weight in children
  • abnormal facial development
  • abnormal dental development
  • sleep apnea
  • sleeping disorders
  • high blood pressure
  • cardiac arrest
  • impaired learning and memory
  • ADHD, depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, aggression, and bullying
  • increased risk of hypertension and heart problems

Sources: (1) and (2)

It's my opinion that a narrow palette is a problem of epidemic proportion in our modern society and that we could alleviate many health issues by simply expanding the palettes of our children prior to doing other orthodontic care.

As always, I am not a doctor (nor an orthodontist) and I do not pretend to be one on TV.  This post is not to be considered medical advice and is for entertainment purposes only and you should consult your physician prior to making any changed in your diet or your oral care.

To see a visual demonstration of how the airways expand when using a palate expander, see the images below. Source.

The images on the left are before palate expansion, showing a more narrow airway.

The images on the right show the widening of the airways after palate expansion.

Chronic Sinusitis - Airways open from Palette Expansion
Airways and Chronic Sinusitis - Palette Expansion

Unbelievable, isn't it?

Our orthodontist showed us x-ray images of patients who had palate expansions done so we could see the increase in their airway passages.

I was intrigued.

And we decided to go forward with it.

Palate Expansion Results

My boys had palette expanders put in the roof of their mouths, and my youngest had an expander put in the lower part of his mouth as well.

Every day we had to insert a little "key" into a hole in the upper expander to make it a tad wider.

Palatal Expander - Palate Expander

(Photo Source)

Little by little their jaws expanded.

their front teeth got spaces in between them...

Chronic Sinusitis - Palette Expander

They had to work really hard at flossing with all of that metal in their mouths and we ended up buying Waterpiks which were a life saver.

I really really like these - not as a substitute for flossing but they do a great job.

And one day I noticed.

Their sinus issues had improved greatly.

  • No more "gunk in the nose" every night.
  • No more constant nose blowing.
  • No more continual open-mouth chewing (though it is a bit of a struggle due to issues apart from his sinuses).
  • No more nasal voice.
  • I was thrilled.

How fascinating.

Orthodontia, the Narrow Jaw and Chronic Sinusitis

When I was younger, the main way that orthodontia was approached regarding narrow palates was to pull teeth.

It happened to me and I am not very upset that it did. It was typically called "four on the floor" since orthodontists would typically pull 4 teeth to make room for the other crowded teeth (and I guess they wouldn't sometimes just drop the teeth on the floor after pulling them :).)

Now, orthodontists know better.

A wide jaw makes for:

A Happy Jaw.

and Happy Teeth,

a Happy Tongue, and--

Happy sinuses!

Now we can use the saline spray less frequently, my boys will sleep better, have more oxygenated blood, will likely get sick less frequently, which means they will need fewer natural illness remedies and will almost for sure avoid antibiotics and ear infections, which makes for a very very happy natural momma :).

Jaw Expansion for Adults | Vivos Life

So what's an adult to do? Your jaw is pretty much set unless you have super invasive surgery, right?

Wrong.

Thankfully, a company called Vivos Life has figured out a way to literally expand an adult, fully-formed jaw. Non invasive.

Vivos Life is FDA approved to address mild to moderate sleep apnea, and I can tell you from personal experience that it's literally life changing.

It's not cheap, but more and more it's getting covered by insurance so I encourage you to check and see if it is where you live.

 Do your children, or do you, have a narrow jaw?
Have you heard of palate expansion before?

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73 Comments

      1. Hello again, Adrienne. How long after the dilation started, your son's sinusitis problem ended? I had surgery 4 days ago.

  1. Hello, I'm 35 years old and I've had the same problems as long as I can remember. I will expand in the coming days. Unfortunately, doctors found it difficult to diagnose and I had many unnecessary surgeries. Thank you very much for the article 🙂 It was very useful.

    1. Hi there. I thought I had responded to this earlier today but perhaps something went wrong. How are you going to be expanding? You might be interested in this. I will be writing / sharing about it, but it's been life changing for me! https://www.vivoslife.com/

    1. Hi there - I don't recall but there was a wide variety of pricing among the orthodontists in our area. The offices with the most "gadgets" like video games and prizes for coming to appointments had much much higher prices than traditional "no frills" offices. I encourage you to call around. Also the " no frills" office that we went to seemed to have the most thorough approach to this issue. Best wishes!

  2. We just had a very similar experience with our youngest child who is 21. First thing the ortho asked was if he always sounded so nasally and if he has chronic sinus problems. He's had two sinus surgeries in the last eight years. I wish we had known about the small jaw and narrow sinus passage before all the doctoring with the pediatrician. allergist and ENT doctor! Going to start an expander later this month and if that is not effective jaw surgery.

    1. Tough situation. RPE at 21 is on the high end. I know a Dr. Barrowes from Utah does a great job supporting expansion for that age. Typically, they turn the crank.. then have to back-turn to try again. After age 14, results really taper.... but many cool things out there.

  3. We have the same sinus trouble with our 12 year old daughter. Can you give me any more info on these expenses or a link to websites that may help us? One orthodontist we've been to wants to pull 4 teeth out but I'm just not sure if that's the best thing.

    1. Hi Liz.

      I would personally not recommend the "4 on the floor" technique. I had that happen and my mouth isn't a healthy shape as a result. I can't say that is medical advice but I have had several oral practitioners tell me that they don't recommend that any longer. Can you see if there is someone in your area that uses expanders for the palate?

  4. Thanks for posting this Adrienne. My youngest caught a sinus infection late last year and nothing was throwing it off. We tried steroids, nasal sprays (the saline kind) and many other things.
    What finally helped him is rinsing his nose with salt water using a neti pot. I theorize that it's the flow of saline liquid in turn invigorating the flow fo mucous.
    I'd never even heared of a netipot before.
    After doing a bit of research, the fascinating thing is that it has been used for thousands of years in India. And we only noticed it in the last 10 or 20 years. Although the sinus infection with my youngest is not totally gone yet, it has markedly improved and now only comes up blocked when he wakes up. Have you had any experience with neti pots?

  5. Our first 4 children were expander this way, unfortunately not far enough. After the first two failed to "keep" their expansions and adjustments (two sets of braces) we ended up in ALF devices, that actually work with their cranial rhythms. SO, the moral of the story is make sure they're looking at tongue space and projected tongue space... because MOST don't. Our ortho was supposed to be the best in the area. $25,000 later - I have ONE child that was expanded far enough, and that's my 5th child. 🙂 Once we met with a myofunctional therapist and a FUNCTIONAL orthodontist, our eyes were opened.

    TOO little, too late for the oldest two. Sad. He got our money - and we have two children with midline issues, and jaw issues, and teeth that aren't straight.

      1. Hi Adrienne,
        I live in NC can you recommend an orthodontist close to the Raleigh area who practices this method. Thanks

        1. Hi there. I'm sorry, but I do not. I would look up palate expansion and start making phone calls and find someone who really knows what they are doing -- looking at the relationship b/c the upper and lower jaws. Best to you!

  6. I have been trying to expand my palate entirely through exercise. By holding the tongue on the roof of the mouth you can expand the upper palate. It has taken me about 6 months to make enough space for my entire tongue to fit as before my upper palate was too narrow for the rear of the tongue to fit.

    It also dramatically improved my posture as I used to suffer from forward head posture, but moving the tongue to the roof of the mouth corrected my head alignment and allowed me to stand up straight.

    You can look at Dr Mike Mew's youtube videos for more info.
    He talks about tongue position here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eh9OqEd5z1k
    Also adult palate expansion (with an expander) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCNqbvOALZI

  7. Google dna appliance. Expander for adults just fda approved. I have zero business relationship with the product but thought id shar it with u. Cost about 4-6k depending on the dentist u go to that offers it.

    1. I think it's not around anymore? I am looking to see if things like this are really doing anything. No one in my area seems to do them typically w/ adults.

      1. Oh, they are around--the dentist or ortho has to first get certified to offer it. It is growing faster than ever. They just got it FDA approved this year for a potential cure for sleep apnea, as it has been shown to cure many cases (not sure the word potential is the correct word, since all cases are different...). Anyway, here is a list of dentists throughout the world that offer the DNA appliance for Jaw expansion :
        (link replaced by blog owner since it became inoperative. Those reading might wish to check out this company. Adrienne is now using an appliance from this company on her jaw: https://www.vivoslife.com/) And here is the video that first brought me onto this product :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHRTuY4s3eY And lastly, there are other products now for Adult Jaw (airway) expansion that are like the DNA Appliance. The Homeoblock is one of those, and if you google that product, and go to that website, you will find a list of dentists that offer it. There are a few other products just like it. It's interesting though how some elect to market their product for "airway expansion" thus targeting people most likely with Sleep Breathing Disorders such as Apnea and UARS. And other companies market the same product for an alternative to plastic surgery to give a "fuller" face with nice jaw development which gives less wrinkles, etc. And some market it for Straighter teeth! Basically they all do the same thing. When you push both jaws forward and widen the jaws, it automatically gives a fuller/nicer face, give straighter and wider smile, and opens airways. The DNA appliance I think doesn't look to market one aspect over the other, but shows the whole picture, that is why I am starting with that at a dentist office in Cincinnati here in the next few weeks. Hope this helps!

        1. I have read some dentists that offer this accept health insurance, and with a sleep study showing apnea, or any medical condition such as chronic sinitus (sp?), that they can get most of it, if not all of it, approved to be paid through health insurance. If anyone finds that dentist that does accept health insurance for the product, please share. The once here in Cincy do not, and due to the cost (about 5-6k, and I have kids that I'd like to get this for too), please share! thanks.

        2. Thanks. I have read a lot about these and can't tell if they really work or are a scam-- what has your experience been? Please do share and sorry for approving this late. I kept reading it and wondering and then got distracted :)!

  8. Hey Adrienne,
    Just wanted to ask you couple of questions because I am in similar situation as your son. I believe I have a narrow palate (because I had tongue tie) and I think because of it I always have stuffy nose (one nostril only actually). Did your kid had a single nostril blocked as well or was it both? and is it treatable for a person aged 22 years old?
    Thanks!! 🙂

    1. I have found one way w/o surgery called orthotropics but from my best estimates it is about 30K to treat and may or may not work. Not sure. Might take 12 years or so. The other way is palate surgery. Not fun but looks like it might be worth it for some. 🙂

    2. Waleed
      It has been a long time since I wrote this but I am having the same problem as you. Especially my one nostril is blocked. I have asymmetry on my face. I hope you solved your problem?

  9. My husband has sinus issues but not the nasal issues you described. I was hoping to figure out how to fix sinus issues without surgery... Not nasal issues. The sinuses above your eyes...

    1. I'm sorry for not responding sooner - I've been swamped here. I am not sure what else to say but I would think they are connected aren't they?

  10. Hopefully, orthodontists are more enlightened than the one I went to 40 years ago who split my upper palate because my upper jaw was too narrow. What he didn't seem to have done was to match my upper and lower jaws. As a result, I was left with what is called a cross-bite where my upper and lower teeth don't meet. Instead, the upper teeth extend about 1/4" beyond the lower. This makes it harder to chew my food thoroughly, and it puts more stress on upper and lower teeth from the force of chewing not being evenly distributed among the teeth.

      1. I wish I had known about this! I had a LOT of ear infections as a kid. I didn't get a palate expander until sometime in high school. I wonder if this would have helped me...

  11. I had palate expansion as a teenager before braces. Unfortunately I think it has shrunken back because I can tell my teeth aren't meeting as they used to, and the retainer I wore for years (I left it out a few too many nights while pregnant/nursing I suppose) doesn't fit well.

      1. Based on the way my teeth are now meeting, I think it closed up. It sounds crazy that it could happen; I had the expander to correct for a crossbite and that's the kind of bite I have again. I've thought about an orthodontic consultation, but in the midst of life with little ones right now it isn't happening. A bigger issue for me is that I clench my teeth.

        1. Hmmm...I would talk to a good ortho about it. And I have a bite splint which I think is crucial. Hope you can get resolution.

  12. A wonderful solution! Sure which I had the know how (about food allergies) and my orthodontists (yes, I had several over the childhood) had thought of expanders! It would have made a huge difference. And I'd have at 10 more teeth. 🙂

  13. Wow!!! I wish I would have known this with my oldest child. Her jaw was so small that she had six teeth pulled. And also her experience with the oral surgeon was terrible. I am SO glad pulling teeth does not need to be an option. My two youngest who are now three and a half, and four and a half, we'll have to keep a close eye on to see if they need expanders. I know you are not an expert, but this information is still important to be aware of for needless surgery, and help with their sinuses. Thank you so much!

    Blessings,

    Joanne

      1. Hi Adrienne! Can you tell me how old your kids were when they started their treatment? Did they have occlusion problems before their treatment? How much did you have to expand their upper jaw? Do they have to wear permanent retainers and for how long? How did the treatment affect their facial profile and lower jaw/chin so far? How is their occlusion now? Do you know how stable the results would be after the treatment with no retention(no retainers used)? I also have a son (almost 8 years old:)) who keeps his mouth open most of the time and eats with his mouth open. He said he keeps his mouth open because his nose is clogged! He has perfect occlusion and not enough space in the lower jaw for one permanent lateral incisor to come out (he had shark teeth in the front of the lower jaw at age 5 and 4 of his baby teeth were extracted because of it but we were a bit late with that). We chose to go with Armbrecht but I still have some concerns (over-expansion and stability). My son has got a rapid palatal expander and in a month he will get some kind of a retainer in the lower jaw to tilt his teeth forward a bit and hopefully create some extra space in the lower jaw to take care of the crowding there. Please respond soon:)? Thank you.

        1. HI there. My oldest is the only one who had occlusion issues as far as I remember. The oldest is still in braces and the youngest was only given a temporary retainer. Their profiles look better in my opinion. I was surprised that my oldest needed expanding but the ortho pointed out that his lower jaw was more wider than the upper. I have not heard about this not being permanent as the jaw doesn't move much, correct? Both of my boys' sinuses were improved. Have you asked your ortho about the concerns - and if so, what did he say?

          1. Thank you for responding so quickly! I hope I did not scare you with my message. I really like my son's orthodontist. He seems very nice, listens to his patients' concerns and is airway conscientious; all good there. I was also told that my son's upper jaw is smaller than his lower jaw. His midline is off, there is crowding in the lower jaw and his permanent teeth in the upper jaw looked kinda big on his panoramic x-ray. Also the airway looks kind of narrow on his ceph x-ray. My son has hard time falling asleep and sweats a lot while sleeping. He keeps his mouth open during the day and at night. All these are good reasons to do the expansion. I just don't like the idea of wearing fixed/permanent retainer for a couple of years (that is until all his permanent teeth erupt-I don't know how many years we are talking about here) while his face and jaws/maxilla are developing and growing or, even scarier, for the rest of his life. This is already bad enough. I did ask the ortho about over-expansion and possibility of not wearing retainer and he said that it is really hard to over-expand and that if you match jaws well and early enough that the results can be very stable even without using retainer in some people. There is always if :). I think you can have a relapse when expanding upper jaw while your new bone is still being formed (around 50% regression if you take expander out 3 months after the expansion and not use retainer). I am not sure what happens if you keep it there for 6 to 9 month or longer. My concern is what if I create a bigger upper than lower jaw and it becomes permanent and I don't want to use retainers. We would end up with very bad occlusion and disproportionate jaws..I am glad the facial profiles of your kids look better now. Is your younger son done with the treatment?

            1. Interesting. What do you think about the sweating? You think it's related to the breathing issue?

              Did they tell you that he needs to wear a permanent retainer? I would just ask him all of those questions. Yes, my youngest is done. His lower teeth are still crowded some so perhaps we will have to do more....not sure. But he didn't wear braces down there. His treatment wasn't that expensive.

  14. Interesting! My oldest has what I would say is a wider mouth, but she has to breathe through her mouth 8 months of each year (starting in mid-September through the winter and spring months). We've had her taken to the orthodontist for a few consultations, and they wanted to put braces on her, but only due to one tooth (a molar) that was slanted a bit. Nothing has ever been mentioned about her nasal passages, but I also didn't think to ask about it, either. Maybe we'll do a bit more research and take a look at her x-rays again to see if this would help her. But since it isn't 24/7, I wonder if it could just be allergies?

    1. I wouldn't know but it could be that allergies exacerbate the narrow passages, making them swell up so much that they interfere with her breathing. I know I don't have breathing issues year round, but my passages are very narrow so when I get stuffy I am VERY stuffy. Hope that helps :).

      1. Well, it's very possible that this could be a big part of her problem. She was born with a "line" from the tip of her nose to the base of her nose (visible on the underneath area of her nose), and the pediatrician said it have been the start of a cleft palette. She can barely smell anything - not even a skunk! I might print off your blog post and take it in to see our orthodontist. Thank you so much for sharing this information! 🙂

        1. I hope it helps. I will add that the first two orthodontists didn't catch this. I am talking to the third about myself now but it's harder since I am an adult. You might want to shop around. Take care!

          1. Adrienne, I'd be very interested in hearing if they could do this for an adult. Until I read this comment I thought it wouldn't be possible.

            1. Well, it's a different situation w/ adults b/c our bones are done growing. One option is surgery and I am looking into others but I am just starting and have no idea if they really will work or not. If they do look promising I will be talking about it.....