If you’re searching for information about a Rapid Palate Expander, you likely were told by a dentist or orthodontist that you or a family member requires one. While the thought of one of these dental appliances may be unpleasant, the truth is that they’re very common, simple to use and effective. Read on for answers to your questions about the palate expander.
What Is a Rapid Palate Expander?
A Rapid Palatial Expander is an orthodontic appliance that is put in place by an orthodontist and usually worn continuously throughout the day. It fits against the top of the mouth against the soft palate.
The dentist cements the sides of the Rapid Palate Expander to the premolars and first permanent molars. The sides usually have loops or wires that fit around the teeth. Connecting the two sides of the palate expander is a metal jackscrew with a small opening for accepting a key that is used for tightening.
Once the Rapid Palate Expander is in place, you typically can’t see that the appliance is there unless you look inside of a person’s mouth. It’s not visible when you talk or smile.
Who Needs a Rapid Palate Expander?
Rapid Palatial Expanders are used to treat problems that arise when there is not enough room along the jaw for all of a person’s teeth. The expander helps to increase the size of the jaw to make more room. Most often, the appliance is used to treat crossbite or severely crooked teeth caused by overcrowding.
In order for the expander to work properly, the patient’s jaw must still be growing. As a result, a rapid palatal expander in adults is more rare. Expanders are typically only used on kids and tweens who are under 14 to 16 years of age.
How Does a Rapid Palate Expander Work?
The Rapid Palate Expander works by applying pressure to the teeth. When the screw is turned, the expander pushes the jaw outwards from the center, moving the right side of the jaw to the right and the left side of the jaw to the left.
By pushing in both directions, the palate expander encourages the bones beneath the soft palate to move apart gradually over time. When the patient is still growing, the bones will adjust to the new position and remain in their new alignment. With the bones separated, there is more room for emerging teeth and less crowding.
What Does a Rapid Palatial Expander Feel Like?
Many kids worry about what the Rapid Palate Expander will feel like but most children adapt to it being there very fast. Kids may notice that they have more saliva in their mouths after the appliance is in place.
The palate expander does not hurt, although kids may feel some pressure right after the expander is tightened for a period of 1 to 5 minutes. Normally, this is only experienced during the first few weeks. Over time, kids adjust to the feeling and are unlikely to even notice a difference after tightening. In most cases, ibuprofen can be used to ease any discomfort in the meantime.
How Do You Use a Rapid Palate Expander?
In order for a Rapid Palate Expander to be effective, the jackscrew in the middle needs to be tightened on a regular schedule, such as every day, every other day or once per week. Normally, orthodontists ask parents to handle this important job for their kids.
While each Rapid Palatial Expander is a little different, generally, tightening the appliance involves the following 3 steps:
1. Insert the key into the hole in the middle of the Rapid Palatial Expander. There is usually an arrow or other marking on the appliance that shows you which direction the key goes in.
2. Turn the key in a clockwise motion the number of times that your doctor recommends. Count the turns as you go and never exceed the recommended number of turns.
3. Remove the key. Rinse it with water and set it aside for next time.
Rapid Palatal Expander Side Effects
The most common side effect of the Rapid Palate Expander during the early days is slurred speech. Kids will need time to adjust to talking with the device in place. Some parents choose to have the palate expander placed on a Friday before a long weekend or over the summer, so that their children do not have to try and talk at school.
Swallowing can also be a little challenging during the first days after placement. Kids may need to eat soft foods for 1 to 3 days while their tongues get accustomed to the presence of the appliance.
Some kids develop nose bleeds after tightening due to the pressure. It is uncommon and usually stops rather fast. The appliance can also come loose and require emergency reattachment at the orthodontist’s office.
Serious side effects from the Rapid Palatal Expander are rare but can include gaps forming in the front teeth and over extension of the jaw. Seeing your orthodontist regularly greatly reduces the chance of having any problems.
How Long Do You Have to Wear a Rapid Palate Expander?
Most often, a Rapid Palatal Expander is worn for 9 to 12 months. After the palate expander is removed, a retainer may be worn to keep the teeth from shifting back into their former location. In some cases, braces may be used after the expander to further straighten the teeth.
The most important key to success with any Rapid Palatal Expander is following the specific instructions that your orthodontist provides. Everyone’s mouth is different, so no two people have the exact same needs when it comes to orthodontic care. The tips and information given here is general advice. You should always put what your dental professional says first.
While a Rapid Palate Expander may seem intimidating, kids and parents get used to them very fast. If you need one or your child does, relax! The benefits greatly outweigh the drawbacks, and the treatment period is usually very short.
Have experience using a Rapid Palatal Expander? Tell us about it in the Comments section. Your feedback can help other readers.