The Palatal expander is an appliance used to expand the palate, to make room for your upper teeth and for your tongue. There are two types of this appliance. A banded type that is cemented by bands on the six-year molars, and a bonded type that is cemented to the biting surfaces of the upper molars. In either case, the appliance works the same way. The screw on the palate must be turned daily by a family member until the adequate expansion is obtained. After this, the appliance must be worn for approximately three months before it is removed, to maintain the expansion obtained.
How to care for your palatal expander
This appliance is relatively easy to care for, since it is cemented in place. You should be sure to brush well on the palate and all around the appliance. Try to check after each brushing that the appliance is clean, and free of food.
What you can eat
To avoid loosening or distorting the appliance, the following foods should be avoided: Nuts, Caramels, Taffy, “Jube-Jubes”, Bubble Gum (Sugarless Gum is okay), and also avoid chewing on pens, ice cubes or hard candy.
What to do if the appliance becomes loose
You should be able to tell if the appliance becomes loose. It is important to call and make an appointment to re-cement the appliance as soon as you notice it is loose. A loose appliance can irritate the gums around it, and can allow food to become trapped under it, which could increase the risk of cavities.
Adapting to your new appliance
For the first little while it will feel a little different to speak and to swallow, you may also find that there is more saliva in the mouth, these are all normal things that just require a little time to get used to. If you have the banded type, you may also find that the bands on the molars may irritate your cheek. If this happens just use the orthodontic wax that is provided and the problem should go away.
When the appliance is activated it is normal to feel pressure on the roof of the mouth and sometimes even on the forehead or between the eyes. If needed you can take a pain reliever such as Advil. After the initial week or so, less pressure is usually noted. Also, it is normal to notice a space opening between the front teeth, this is a good sign. When you stop turning the screw the space will start to close again.