Photo of a smiling patients

A palatal expander is used to growing patients to:​

  • Widen a narrow upper jaw to improve alignment with the lower jaw
  • Widen the upper jaw to create space for permanent teeth to erupt
  • Enhance smile esthetics
Since your back teeth are very close together, we will need to create a slight space between your back teeth so the molar band can slide over your molars easily and comfortably during your band fitting appointment.

What to expect:

  • You may notice your mouth producing more saliva when you first get the expander. If this occurs, make a conscious effort to swallow normally by closing your lips and pushing your tongue up against the roof of your mouth. Dry not to "slurp" as it will drive your family crazy! This will go away as your brain gets use to the expander – typically after a couple of days.
  • You may talk a little funny for a day or two until your tongue gets use to sharing space with the expander. The best way to get back to normal fast is to sing or read out-loud to yourself.
  • Feeling of pressure, tenderness, or tingling in the teeth when the expander is activated. Some discomfort is normal, but you should not feel pain. Over-the-counter pain killer (Tylenol or Ibuprofin) can be used.
  • Difficulty swallowing may be experienced. Start with taking small bites of soft foods. As you and your mouth get used to having the expander in place, you will be able to return to your normal diet (with a few exceptions).
  • A gap may open between your front two teeth. Although you may not appreciate the gap, it is a necessary side effect as the suture down the roof of your mouth is stretched by the expander. The space will likely close on its own after a short time.
  • Your bite may feel a bit “off” as your upper jaw is expanded. This is normal, and your bite will be changing a little bit every day when the expander is activated.

Instructions for Activating the Palatal Expander:

  1. In a well-lit area, have the patient recline with the back of their head resting comfortably on the edge of a bed or arm of a sofa.
  2. Have the patient open their mouth as wide as possible, which will minimize the gag reflex.
  3. Place the key into the center of the hole in the expander until it’s firmly in place, then gently but steadily turn it in the direction indicated by the arrows on the expander – from the front of the mouth to the back.
  4. Turn the key just until the next hole becomes visible at the front.
  5. To remove the key, gently side it in a back-and-downward direction, toward the tongue, being very careful not to “un-turn” the expander in the process.

Important Notes:

  • Follow Drs. Christenson & Oakley’s instructions with regard to how many times and how often the expander should be turned.
  • If you miss a day, do NOT turn the appliance two turns the next day to “catch up.” Instead, just note that one day was missed, and continue with your scheduled turns.
  • If you miss or have to reschedule your Appliance Check appointment, do NOT continue turning the expander. Only complete the total number of turns prescribed by the doctors.
  • We recommend completing the turns before bed each night. This will limit the discomfort you will feel.
  • Avoid eating any hard and/or sticky foods, such as caramels, bubble gum, hard candy, ice, and nuts. These have the potential to bend or loosen the appliance. Popcorn should be avoided, as it can get lodged beneath the expander causing gum irritation and infection.

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