Palatal Expander Appliance | Graf Orthodontics

The Palatal Expander Appliance

Palatal Expander


Our orthodontists are highly-experienced in creating personalized treatment plans for growing smiles! Your child’s treatment plan may include a palatal expander appliance, depending on their unique case.


We’ll give you all of the information you need to help your child achieve and maintain a beautiful and healthy smile.

What is a palatal expander?

A palatal expander is an appliance commonly used in early orthodontic treatment to widen the upper jaw bone and create sufficient space for a healthy set of permanent teeth to grow without crowding or overlapping. (It also helps correct crossbites, when the posterior upper and lower teeth do not fit together the way they should.)


When your experienced Graf orthodontist performs your child’s initial screening, we’ll determine whether a palatal expander is needed to correct his or her smile.

Types of Palatal Expanders

Rapid Palatal Expander

The most common type of palatal expander is the RPE (rapid palatal expander). This one is bonded to the teeth and remains in place, through the day and night, for at least six months. The RPE is activated each day to gradually expand the jaw. The orthodontist will prescribe how often it should be turned in.

Implant-Supported Palatal Expander

An implant-supported expander is most often used for adults whose jaw bones are done developing. This one has four small implants that are embedded into the maxillary bone (upper jaw bone).

Surgically-Assisted Rapid Palatal Expander

Also used for adults whose jaw bones are done developing, the SARPE (surgically-assisted rapid palatal expander) expands the jaw through a surgical orthodontic approach.

Who can benefit from a palatal expander?

This appliance is most effective when the jaw bones are still developing and the permanent teeth are erupting through the gums. The optimal palatal expander age is generally between ages 8 and 12.  


Adults can still benefit from a palatal expander, but they most often require an implant-supported expander or a surgically-assisted expander if their jaw bones have stopped developing. 

Signs that your child may need a palatal expander

If your child experiences any of the following signs or symptoms, this may indicate a need for the palatal expander:

  • Teeth crowding or overlapping each other
  • Experiencing pain as permanent teeth are emerging 
  • Difficulty sleeping or mouth-breathing when sleeping
  • Difficulty chewing or biting cheeks
  • Impacted teeth (teeth are blocked and cannot erupt through the gums)
  • Malocclusion (underbite, overbite, cross bite, open bite)

How does a palatal expander work?

This appliance uses small metal bands, positioned around the upper molars, with a screw piece that sits in the center of the roof of the mouth.


You’ll insert a special key into the center screw and rotate the key backwards, toward your throat. This is considered one full turn. Activating the expander will trigger it to exert gentle outward pressure on the upper teeth. We typically recommend to turn before bed time.


Over time, these tiny turns will expand the upper jaw to the desired width. Once the jaw bone is properly expanded, you or your child will continue to wear the appliance for a few months to prevent the bones and teeth from reverting to their original position.

What to Expect

If you’re just hearing about this appliance, you may be concerned about palatal expander side effects. The expansion process can sound a bit intimidating, but you can rest assured that plenty of people have undergone successful treatment with palatal expanders and experienced life-changing benefits!

You should not experience any palatal expander pain at any point in your treatment. Your appliance will be custom-designed to fit your mouth, and it won’t expand without you activating it.
When you turn the key, you may experience a slight tingling around the bridge of your nose, but this feeling should go away within a few minutes. After about a week or two wearing the expander, most people are used to this mild sensation!

It is very common for a gap to develop between the patient’s top front teeth when using a palatal expander, because half of the teeth are moving to the right and the other half are moving to the left, as the upper jaw expands. Due to the space that opens, most often we will recommend an early set of upper braces to close that space.

Palatal Expander Cost

The cost of your expander will be factored into your personalized treatment plan. Your treatment cost will depend on a few things, including the severity of your condition and the length of treatment.


At your first visit to our Bossier City, Shreveport, Minden, Natchitoches, Many or Alexandria orthodontist office, we’ll discuss your financial needs to create a custom payment plan that works for you! We pride ourselves on providing top-of-the-line orthodontic care for every budget.

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