How to turn an expander
Start with having the child lie on his or her back, with their head at the edge of a bed or over the arm of a sofa. Use adequate lighting from a bright lamp or flashlight.
Have your child open their mouth as wide as possible, as that will minimize the gag reflex.
Now place the key in the center hole and start turning in the direction of the arrows that are on the expander.
Turn the expander toward the back of the mouth until you can see the next hole
Carefully remove the key in a down and back direction. Caution: Be very careful not to “unturn” the expander when removing the key
- Be sure to follow the doctor’s instructions as to how often to turn the expander
- Try to make the adjustments at about the same time every day
Cautions for all expanders
- Pulling an expander key in an outward direction can cause separation of the metal portion, which may be swallowed
- Do not skip any days of turning the expander. Skipping a day may lengthen the time for the expansion
- If nuts, seeds or hard food particles block the key hole, carefully clear the hole with a toothpick before turning
- If you cannot keep a scheduled appointment, DO NOT continue to turn the expander until after you have spoken to the doctor
Diet and cleaning your expander
- Maintain a soft diet for the first few days after receiving the expander
- Avoid hard or sticky foods, like popcorn or caramels. Those type of foods might dislodge the expander
- Brush thoroughly after meals to keep the expander free of food and plaque
What to expect with an expander
- A temporary lisp or slurred speech
- Excess saliva for a few days
- Possible initial difficulty in chewing and swallowing
- Pressure on the teeth, palate and nose after adjustments
- Temporary irritation of the tongue
- Possible headache
- A slight change in facial appearance
- The bite may feel “off”
- Certain foods will catch on the expander
- A temporary space will appear between the upper front teeth as expansion progresses
If you have excess saliva, swallow before speaking. With discomfort use a mild, over-the-counter pain reliever. If you are experiencing any other issues with your expander, click here for our emergency help page.
These are normal and expected effects of a rapid palatal expander and are not reasons to remove the expander prematurely. Braces are usually required following palatal expansion to align the teeth and fine-tune the bite.