What is a palatal expander?
A palatal expander is an appliance that is attached to the upper molars through bonding or bands. The palatal expander is used to widen the upper jaw. It is typically used when the upper jaw is too narrow or the upper teeth are crowded. Activating the expander creates gradual outward pressure to cause an increased amount of bone to grow between the right and left halves of the jaw, resulting in increased width.
Palatal expander FAQs
Dr. Hodges will provide a specific schedule for when you should activate the expander. If you are not sure of how many turns to make on the expander, please contact the office so that you do not turn the expander too many times.
When turning the expander, it does not matter what time of the day you do it. And it does not matter that you turn it at the same time every day. Turn when it is most convenient.
Eating difficulties usually are resolved within 24 to 72 hours. Excess saliva is normal when the appliance is initially placed. Your mouth may water more than usual and this will stop after the first few days as your body adjusts. It is helpful to eat softer foods until you have grown accustomed to this new feeling. During meals, food may accumulate between the roof of the mouth and the appliance. It is best to finish the meal or snack first, then dislodge the food by swishing around a mouth full of your drink or water. If the food particles remain under the appliance, they may become a source of irritation to the roof of the mouth that will become uncomfortable for the patient.
You have been given a key to activate the expander. The patient should lie down or tilt their head back, and a source of light is helpful to illuminate the inside of the mouth. Insert the key into the hole at the midline of the appliance, and rotate downward and backward until the next hole is completely visible. Remove the key by pushing downward towards the tongue and slightly inward toward the throat, without reversing the turn.
Cleaning thoroughly is very important. Please pay particular attention to the margin where the appliance meets the gums on the cheek side and the tongue side. Improper brushing can leave heavy plaque buildup, which will cause gingivitis. If you notice the gums are bleeding, especially during brushing, this is a sign of gingivitis. This can be eliminated within two to four days with adequate plaque removal when brushing.
If the appliance becomes loose (or you think it may be loose) or if there is pain or extreme breath odor, call the office. A loose appliance should not be activated (or turned) and no part of the appliance should be discarded or thrown away. Please contact the office and we will advise you on how to proceed.
During the time of activation of the appliance, it is important that you be seen at your scheduled appliance. If for some reason you miss an appointment, expanding the appliance should be discontinued until the patient is seen. In that case, please call the office promptly to reschedule.
Wearing the appliance may cause temporary discomfort at the nose, cheeks or teeth. The patient may adapt after a week. Two front teeth may become slightly sensitive and mobile. Ibuprofen or Tylenol can help. The midline space will close naturally once the appliance is removed.
Speech difficulties are normal at first but are usually resolved within 24 to 72 hours. A helpful tip is to read out loud to practice your speech until this improves. Within a few days, this will not even be an issue.