What is a palate expander?
An expander is an orthodontic tool that is used to make your top jaw wider and broaden your smile.
Why do I need an expander?
We want your top teeth to fit over your bottom teeth like a lid fits on a jaw. Expanders are used for patients who have small mouths or a narrow top jaws, meaning that the “lid” (top teeth) isn’t wide enough for the “jar” (bottom teeth).
Expanders are used to correct crossbites, make more space for your teeth, and widen your top jaw to give you a more esthetic smile.
At what age should I get an expander?
This depends! Some patients get expanders during Early Braces treatment, around age 7. Some patients get expanders when they are older around age 12. Talk to your orthodontist about the best time for your expander.
Expanders work best in kids because they are still growing. During growth, your bone is more easily expanded because the suture on the roof of your mouth isn’t mature yet.
What happens the day I get my expander?
Getting an expander requires two appointments.
- First Appointment: You will get a 3D scan of your teeth. We use this scan to 3D print your expander. 3D printed expanders are custom made, so that the fit your teeth and jaw perfectly. If your older siblings or parents had an expander, they may have had something called spacers or separators – because we use 3D printed expanders, we don’t need spacers!
- Second Appointment: You will get your expander. The steps are easy. First we try the expander in as a “practice round” so you can get used to it. Then, we put some tooth shampoo on your teeth to clean them off, rinse with water, then dry with air. Once the teeth are dry, we glue the expander in with tooth glue. We shine a blue light on your teeth to get the tooth glue to dry.
This is a picture of our iTero scanner that we use to take your 3D scan. It only takes a few minutes and is really easy!
Will it hurt?
Getting an expander does not hurt, but you may feel some slight discomfort or pressure the first few days when you turn your expander. Pressure when you turn your expander is NORMAL. This pressure goes away within 10 minutes of turning.
It will take a few days to get used to talking and eating with your expander. Your mouth adapts quickly and after a few days you will forget it’s in your mouth!
Why do you use a 3D printed expander instead of a different type of expander?
We love using the latest technology to improve our patient experience. 3D printed expanders are customized to your teeth, so the expanders fit really well. You don’t need spacers/separators for these types of expanders, which makes them more comfortable and decreases the number of appointments you need.
How does it work?
We will show you how to activate your expander. You turn a key at home. These turns will slowly widen your top jaw and expand the bones in your palate. Check out our Instagram page @frazierortho for a video on how to turn your expander.
In this picture, you can see the small hole that you will use to turn your expander.
How often do I turn my expander?
This depends. Follow instructions from your orthodontist about how much to turn your expander.
How long will I have my expander?
You only turn your expander for a few weeks, but you will have your expander in your mouth for 6-12 months. We leave it in to act as retainer to hold the teeth and bones in place while the bone on the roof of your mouth remodels.
If you remove your expander too soon, your teeth and jaw bones will move back.
Why did I get a space between my front teeth?
Don’t worry! Getting a space between your front teeth is actually a great sign that your expander is working. The midpalatal suture on the roof of your mouth is expanding and as that happens, a space forms between your front teeth. This space will often start to close on its own after you’re done turning your expander. If not, we can close it with braces.
What can I eat with my palate expander?
The first few days with your expander will feel a little weird. We recommend cutting foods into smaller pieces and taking small bites until you are more used to eating with your expander.
It is best to avoid hard and sticky foods. These foods can dislodge or break your expander.
How do I clean my expander?
Brushing your teeth and your expander is very important. Food may get stuck between your expander and the roof of your mouth. You can swish with water to remove it or use a water flosser to help dislodge any food caught around your expander.
What if my expander is loose?
If it is loose on just one side, you can push it back into place temporarily. Avoid eating hard or sticky foods until your orthodontist can reglue your expander. Do not continue turning your expander until your orthodontist checks it.
If your expander becomes loose on both sides, take the expander out completely and call your orthodontist to have it refitted. If the expander remains out for too long, your jaw and teeth will move backwards and you may have to start over.
It is not an emergency, but you should see your orthodontist as soon as possible on the next day they are open if your expander is loose.