So you’ve just taken your child in for their first orthodontic exam and as one of our orthodontists is going over their recommended treatment plan for your kiddo, you hear the word “palatal expander”. If you immediately thought of some kind of alien vs. predator device, we promise you it’s not that sinister! While Dr. Caudill, Dr. McNeight, or Dr. Naglieri will explain your child’s braces or Invisalign treatment in detail (including any supplemental orthodontic appliances), you may find yourself with more questions after leaving our offices.
That’s ok! Our team is here to answer your questions and provide you with expert resources to read on your own….like this blog! Are you considering orthodontic treatment and wondering how long you’ll have to wear those expanders? So let’s address a few common questions about palatal expanders – from acronyms to how long they have to wear them.
What is a Hyrax or RPE in orthodontics?
The most common palatal expander used in our practice is called a hyrax or RPE, which stands for Rapid Palatal Expander. These work great with patients who are still growing (like kids and teens). Just like their name suggests, an RPE will expand your child’s narrow palate to help make room for their overcrowded teeth or unhealthy bite (or crossbite). The rapid part comes into play because your child will be turning their expander every day.
Our team also uses a slow fixed palatal expander in our treatments called a W-arch, but this is only used in certain cases.
What’s turning a palate expander like? Does it hurt?
This is one of THE most common questions parents and kids have. And where the most hesitation about starting orthodontic treatment can happen. While it might seem intimidating at first, it’s a simple process. As for what it feels like, your child may experience some discomfort or soreness the first few days or shortly after a turn. This is normal as the pressure exerted causes healthy movement.
So “how many turns for a palatal expander?” is usually the next question that follows this one. The answer is not simple! Because every child is different, the number of turns varies. We typically have our patients do one turn a day for 30 days and then see the child back to monitor progress.
Once your child’s expander is placed, their orthodontist will give you a special key that fits into the expander and demonstrate how to use it. You or your child will insert the key and gently turn it. Doing so, gradually widen the expander and in turn your child’s palate.
How long do expanders stay in?
Now, for the question of the hour! While most in early orthodontic treatment wear an expander for 3 to 6 months, your child’s unique timeframe depends on a few different factors, such as:
- Age. A 6 year old typically wears an expander for less time than a 15 year old as their palate is still in the earlier stages of fusing, which means easier movement (NIH).
- Severity of orthodontic condition(s). Depending on how complex your child’s orthodontic condition is or if they have more than one, will increase or decrease their time in an expander.
- Compliance. Skipping turns or doing more turns than recommended also affects this.
- The individual. Depending on their body’s own response to orthodontic treatment, they may see faster or slower movement than others.
Still have questions about how long your child will have a palatal expander?
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions about orthodontic appliances or treatment. Your child’s treatment plan with us will include an initial estimate of how long they’ll wear their expander and we’ll keep you informed of any necessary adjustments.