Early Orthodontics Treatment

Palatal Expander

A palatal expander is an orthodontic appliance that “expands” the upper jaw by exerting gentle pressure on the upper molars through daily adjustments or activations. This appliance serves to widen narrow palates to prepare the mouth for permanent teeth to grow with a sufficient amount of room.

Signs that You May Need a Palatal Expander

Who needs a palatal expander?

Palatal expanders are best suited for children whose jaw bones are still growing and developing. The palatal expander age typically ranges from 7 to 10 years old. The ideal time to widen the palate with an expander is when the jaw bones aren’t fully developed because growing bones are impressionable and more receptive to treatment.

Adults can still benefit from palatal expanders, but they sometimes require a surgically-assisted procedure since the jaw bones have already stabilized.

Different Types of Palatal Expanders

There are different types of palatal expanders including rapid palatal expanders, removable palatal expanders, surgically-assisted palatal expanders, and implant-supported palatal expanders.

The rapid palatal expander (RPE) can be used for mild to severe cases. It has metal bands that fit around the top, back teeth with a screw in the middle that (when activated with a special key) expands the device with a subtle, gentle force. With a rapid palatal expander, you’ll use a key to turn the device daily. Little-by-little, the RPE expands the two palatal bones to successfully widen the upper jaw. 

A removable palatal expander is used for mild to moderate cases when a patient only needs to expand the jaw a little. This type of expander looks like a Hawley retainer and is made out of acrylic or metal. Removable expanders work similarly to the RPE but are not bonded to the teeth. If a removable palatal expander is best for your case, our orthodontists will instruct you on the proper length of time to wear it.

Surgically-assisted palatal expanders are used for moderate to severe cases and are typically used for adults whose jaw bones are fully developed. With this device, an expander is used with bands around the back teeth. The surgeon releases the bone around the palate to allow the arch to expand as the RPE is turned. Implant-supported palatal expanders are also used for moderate to severe cases and are typically used for adults whose jaw bones are fully grown. An implant expander uses four mini implants embedded into the maxillary bone to effectively widen the palate.

How a Palatal Expander Works

Palatal expanders are placed on the upper jaw by attaching them to the back molars. This device has a screw mechanism in the center that you’ll activate as instructed with a special key.

You’ll insert the key into the center of the palatal expander then rotate the key backwards towards your throat. A complete rotation backwards is one full turn. Each complete turn, or activation, gently expands the appliance thus widening the upper jaw.

Our orthodontists, Dr. Spillers and Dr. Gordon, will instruct you on how often to activate your palatal expander (based on your condition) to keep you on the most efficient track towards your new smile. 


Once your palate has successfully expanded to its intended width, you will continue to wear the appliance for several months to solidify the expansion and prevent regression. 

You can download instructions in a printable PDF document and a chart here

Take a look at this video to see how to adjust your expander.

Palatal Expander Side Effects

Many patients question whether they’ll experience palatal expander pain during treatment, but this is not the case! Your palatal expander shouldn’t cause you pain when it’s placed on your teeth or as you activate it throughout your treatment period.

Each time you turn the key to activate your palatal expander, you may experience a tingling sensation around your teeth and around the bridge of your nose. This is a normal palatal expander side effect that will subside after a few minutes. 

It’s normal to feel some minor discomfort the first week with your palatal expander. That’s only because your teeth aren’t used to this new appliance yet! This adjustment period should only last about a week.

Palatal Expander Cost

There isn’t a fixed palatal expander cost because this appliance is included in your treatment plan. The cost will depend on the length of your treatment, the severity of your condition, and whether or not you require additional treatment in addition to the expander.

At your first visit to either of our offices in Macon or Warner Robins, we will create a custom treatment plan that helps you to achieve a healthy and beautiful smile, but also meets your financial needs!

We believe everyone should have access to affordable, high-quality orthodontic treatment. With a variety of affordable payment plans, we have an option to suit your financial situation.

Still have questions about palatal expanders?

We want to hear from you! If you know you require a palatal expander, have crowded teeth, or you experience trouble breathing or sleeping, we want to help

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at either of our locations in Macon or Warner Robins. If you’re ready to get started, schedule a free orthodontic exam for you or your child today!