Your Palatal Expander

Why is my child being treated with a palatal expander?

The upper jaw or palate is normally slightly wider than the lower jaw. This allows the upper teeth to guide the cheek away from the teeth and prevent cheek biting. It also allows for proper function of the teeth during chewing and speaking. When the top jaw is constricted or narrower than the lower jaw, then a crossbite occurs. Crossbites should be corrected to prevent abnormal wear of the back teeth as well as to keep the gum tissue healthy. Other benefits of palatal expansion include creating more space for permanent teeth to erupt as well as increasing nasal air volume to help with the airway and breathing.

How to activate the expander aka “Turn the key”:

Step 1
Illustration of a palatal expander

In a well-lit area tip the patient’s head

Step 2
Illustration of placing the key in a palatal expander

Place the key in the hole until it is firmly in place. There is a bend in the key to prevent you from inserting it too far. Don’t worry, you won’t “poke” the patient.

Step 3

Illustration of the key rotating in a palatal expander

Pushing the key towards the back of the mouth, you will notice the wheel in the expander will rotate and the new hole will appear. The rotation stops when the key meets the back of the expander.

Step 4

Illustration of removing the key in a palatal expander

By pushing back and down towards the tongue, remove the key. The next hole for insertion of the key should now be visible.

Watch now!

How does the expander work and what should we expect?

  • The frequency of how often to turn the key will depend on the severity of the crossbite as well as the age or skeletal maturity of the patient. Dr. Salaita will prescribe whether to turn 1x/day, 2x/day or every other day as well as the total number of turns desired.
  • You will be given a chart to record the number of turns and the date each was made.
  • If you forget to do a turn, do NOT give extra turns to “catch-up.” Just continue to follow the prescribed schedule and stop turning the appliance once you have completed the number of turns recommended by Dr. Salaita.
  • Slight discomfort or pressure immediately after turning the key is normal. This can be noticeable in the teeth and just above and/or between the eyes and should subside after a couple of minutes.
  • It is also normal to begin to see a space opening up between your child’s front teeth – a good sign that the appliance is working! Before the appliance is removed, this space will typically close by itself due to the pull of fibers between the teeth.
  • It is very important to brush all around the expander every time after eating. A Water-Pik is also helpful to flush out food from underneath the appliance. One of the most common causes of discomfort is if the gum tissue around the molar bands becomes inflamed (puffy) & red. This can be avoided with good oral hygiene.
  • Avoid chewy and sticky foods such as gum, caramels, taffy, etc. so as not to loosen the appliance.
  • The palatal expander will be in for approximately 6 months.

Do you still have questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact us today!

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