One of the most common appliances used in orthodontics is the expander. These appliances may seem “scary” or “intimidating”, however they are easy to get used to and pretty easy to turn, once you get the hang of it. So what are the benefits of this appliance?

The expander is used for growing children (ages 7-11) to eliminate crowding and crossbites by widening the upper jaw. It is attached to the right and left first molars and the stretches the midline area which allows new bone growth.

There are two types of orthodontic expanders:

– Rapid Palatal Expanders
– Slow Palatal Expanders

The most common are rapid expanders which are held by bands (special rings) that are glued into place. This type cannot be removed by the patient. The screw that sits in the middle is usually turned once a day using a special key for 3-4 weeks. We recommend a parent help with this daily activity. The expander is then left in the patient’s mouth for an additional 3-6 months.

The slow expander is removable but also has a screw in the middle. This expander can be worn full time, except for eating and brushing.

It’s not so scary! When turning the key, many children do not feel anything at all! At most you may feel a little pressure. Make sure to avoid sticky foods as they can move the expander out of place. For the first few days, stick to soups and healthy smoothies to ease the transition.

A reminder to those of you with orthodontic expanders: Make sure to keep up with good brushing, as bacteria can get stuck in between. Take good care and keep it clean. In no time, you’ll have a new smile to enjoy 🙂

– Dr. Michael Gorlovsky