Dr. Greg Jorgensen
(505) 891-9440
1401 Barbara Loop SE
Rio Rancho, NM 87124

The Jorgensen Orthodontics Blog

What to Expect With Your Child’s Orthodontic Expander

Posted by Dr. Jorgensen on August 22nd, 2011

ExpanderOne of the most common orthodontic appliances used in young children is the palatal expander. These appliances look intimidating to patients and the thought of having to “do the turns” every day scares a lot of parents. What can you expect while your child has an expander in their mouth?

Arch expansion is one of the most common ways to eliminate crowding and crossbites in growing patients. Successful expansion requires that the growth plate in the room of the mouth (the midpalatal suture) is not fused. This fusion usually occurs between 14 and 16 years of age.

An expander is attached to the upper arch by bands placed around the teeth or plastic bonded over the teeth. Although there are removable expanders, fixed ones have an important advantage in that they cannot be lost or forgotten.

While there may be some initial discomfort when an expander is placed just because there has never been anything like that attached to the teeth before, for the most part upper arch expansion is relatively painless. Patients report that they feel pressure on the teeth, in the roof of the mouth, behind the nose, and even between the eyes as their expander is activated. This pressure fades within minutes.

Besides pressure, you can also expect your child to speak differently for the first few days. Additionally, you may hear them slurping as their mouth creates extra saliva after expander cementation. One of the most visible signs that the suture is opening (the desired effect) is the appearance of a space between the upper central incisors. The space is created as the expander pushes the two halves of the palate in opposite directions. Once you have stopped activating the expander, it is normal for the space to close spontaneously. This occurs as the elastic fibers in the surrounding gum tissues return to their original positions. The underlying bone, however, remains expanded. It is also normal for the front teeth to feel a little loose and get sore as they move back together.

To make the first couple of days more bearable for your child as they adapt to their new expander, you may want to find some fun foods for them to eat that don’t require a lot of chewing. Examples include yogurt, pudding, mashed potatoes, ice cream, etc. A day or two after their delivery appointment, the expander will feel natural in their mouth and normal eating will resume. While expanders are more forgiving of hard and sticky foods than are braces, it is recommended that patient avoid jelly like candies that would get stuck in the expansion screw.

Because there is always some relapse (movement back towards the original size), your orthodontist may choose to over-expand your child’s palate. He will decide how much expansion is necessary as part of the initial diagnosis and treatment plan. After your orthodontist indicates that you’ve reached your target, he will instruct you on how long the retainer should stay in place to stabilize the results. This may range from two months to the entire length of treatment.

565 comments so far in response to “What to Expect With Your Child’s Orthodontic Expander”

  1. Chloe says:

    Hello Dr. Jorgensen!!!!! I am getting my expander in 3 days and I was wondering what it will feel like when I first get it ??

    • You are going to talk funny, have extra “spit,” and get food caught up on top of it. When you do the turns (activate it) you will feel tightness behind your nose. It will take a few days to get used to it, but you will. Good luck!

  2. christene says:

    Hi,

    I have an 8 year old that has anxiety and her orthodontics wants to put in an expander (cemented in) and partial braces. She still has baby teeth! She has a cross bite, crowding, missing teeth and an abnormal Frenum. My question is this…should we wait until she gets her permanent teeth do do the expander and partial braces,and what about her abnormal Frenum? Should he do surgery on the Frenum issue? I don’t want her front teeth to expand more than they already are. What are the issues if we wait until she is older (14 years old) to do any of this? Due to her anxiety, she may be more mature to handle things.

  3. Nicole says:

    Hi I just took my 5 year old daughter to the dentist and they want to put a expander in with in the next six months they says it’s because she sucks her two middle figures is that true? Also they told me she would only need one expander does one normally do the trick I don’t want to put out 1200 and then in 6-8 montha they tell me she needs another one? Also is it normal to put one of these in at 5 years old please help thank you

  4. ROSA M says:

    MY DAUGHTER IS 18 YEARS OLD AND SHE GOT A RAPID PALATAL EXPANDER, I WAS JUST READING AND IT SOUNDS LIKE SHE WAS TOO OLD FOR THIS KIND OF TREATMENT, SHE JUST GOT IT 4 DAYS AGO AND SHE CAN’T EAT AND HAVE LOTS OF PAIN, BUT SHE WILL DEAL WITH THAT, I’M JUST CONCERN THAT SHE IS TOO OLD FOR THAT TREATMENT, PLEASE HELP.

    • In my experience, the change that will be seen will be the teeth moving and not the jaws. That is not always wrong or bad, but it must be closely monitored since recession can result if the teeth are pushed out of the bone.

  5. lucy white says:

    Hi I’m getting an expander next week but I have really bad gag reflexes so I was wondering if it would make me gag.

    Thanks

  6. Kassie says:

    My daughter was born with a partial soft cleft palate which was repaired 4.5 years ago. She has extreme crowding and an open bite and this procedure has been recommended. My main concern is will it effect the repaired cleft palate?

    • I’m not an expert in cleft palate treatment. I would think that an expander would work just the same, but this is a question I’d run by the cleft palate team that corrected the cleft palate.

  7. joe hofet says:

    My son needs a expander and is 13. Will it work on a 13 year old?

  8. joe hofer says:

    My son sdult canines erupt out of the gum and wrong position. Will a palate expander help it come in position.

Leave a Comment

Back to Top

meet orthodontist Greg Jorgensen of Albuquerque NM
why choose our Rio Rancho NM orthodontic office
Schedule an appointment with our talented orthodontist online