Palatal Expander

What is palatal expansion?

Palatal expansion is the widening of the upper jaw. It’s needed when the upper jaw is smaller than the lower one. An appliance is made to fit the palate and attached to the molar teeth. By activating the appliance through turning, a wider palate is created.

This appliance will correct crossbites of the molar teeth and make room for crowded teeth. The palatal expander is cemented into the mouth and worn for six months. The palatal expansion appliance is most effective for young, growing patients, but can be used effectively until the end of adolescence.

How is the palatal expander adjusted?

Each day, a parent will turn the appliance once. The best time to turn the expander is after dinner, so it’s comfortable before sleeping. You will be given instructions on how to turn the expander and an opportunity to turn it twice while in the office.

What will the appliance feel like after it is turned?

After each turn, the teeth may feel tight or sore. This will last for only 15 to 30 minutes. During the first few days of turning, Tylenol or Advil may be helpful.

Make sure each turn is complete, with the new keyhole in view and ready for the next adjustment. Remove the key toward the back of the mouth so you are not “unturning” the appliance.

What else can be expected?

As expansion takes place, you will notice a space opening between the two upper front teeth. These teeth may be sensitive to pressure. This means the expander is working properly, and the two parts of the upper jaw are moving apart.

The space may get quite large during the first few weeks of expansion. The space will close later, when the turning of the expander is complete. Your front teeth may be sensitive and feel slightly loose during expansion. Some soreness on the bridge of the nose may also be experienced.

How long will the expander be used?

The expander will be turned once every day for six weeks. During this time of activation, you will visit the office every three weeks. If you are unable to keep your appointment, stop turning the expander until your next visit.

After the initial six weeks of expansion, the expander will remain in the mouth for four to six months. This will allow the upper jaw to stabilize. The expander is not turned during this period.


Extra time will be needed when brushing to keep the expander free of food and plaque. You will receive helpful hints along with special brushes to keep the expander clean and comfortable. Brush the expander before turning to provide a clear view of the keyhole.


During the first few days, a soft diet is recommended. Afterward, a normal diet can be continued with a few restrictions. Avoid chewing gum, popcorn, or any sticky, gooey candies. These foods may loosen your appliance and require extra trips to the office.

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