One of the most common orthodontic appliances used in young children is the palatal expander. The expansion of the arch is done to eliminate crowding and crossbites in growing patients.

An expander is attached to the upper molars by bands that are cemented around the teeth. You will be required to do active turns on the expander with a key in between your visits. Although there are removable expanders, fixed ones have an important advantage because they cannot be lost or forgotten.

It is common to feel pressure on the teeth, roof of mouth, behind the nose, and even between the eyes as the expander is activated. This pressure typically fades within minutes.

Getting used to your expander:

  • It will take a couple days to get used to talking and swallowing.
  • Stay away from any hard or sticky foods that could break the seal between the glue and your teeth.
  • You may develop a temporary space in between your teeth as expansion progresses.
  • Only do as many turns as you have been instructed. (1/day – stop turning once prescribed turns are complete.)
  • If any soreness occurs you may take Tylenol or Advil.
  • For any sores that develop on the cheeks and/or tongue, while adjusting to the expander, you may use wax for comfort and do warm salt water rinses to encourage healing.

Tips on turning the expander:

  • Have the patient lie on his/her back with the head at the edge of a bed or sofa. Use adequate lighting from a bright lamp or flashlight.
  • Place key in the front hole and turn in the direction of the arrow on the center of the expander (towards the throat).
  • When you can no longer turn it any further and can see a new hole at the front, you can gently remove the key in a downward direction.