Two common types of appliances that may be commonly used in pediatric or adolescent dental care are a “palatal expander” and a “quad helix”. Each appliance treats a variety of problem areas of the mouth related to expansion. By consulting with professional trained dental professional you may learn if a palatal expander or quad helix is right for your child. Our orthodontics offices in Crestview, Gulf Breeze and Pensacola can assist with your expander needs.

 Palatal Expanders

A palate expander is a dental appliance that is used to specifically widen the roof of the mouth. They are used to correct many possible scenarios in a patient’s mouth. Typically, palate expanders are used to correct crossbites— for when a child’s upper jaw and palate are too narrow to create a normal bite, overcrowding and difficulty in breathing properly – for when a patient may have a more narrow or deep jaw.

Traditionally, palate expanders are attached to the molars with metal rings and expansion screws are built into the appliance. A key is designed to activate the turning and expansion. When activated, the screws slowly separate and begin to stretch the upper jaw over a course of expected time.

Initially, when a palate expander is placed, it may feel bulky and uncomfortable. However, as time progresses the mouth adjusts to the placement of the new appliance and it should begin to feel “normal” again. Although, pressure and discomfort may be felt whenever the palate expander is turned and activated to create expansion.

Frequently Asked Questions About Palate Expanders

  • How do I care for my palate expander?

Fortunately, caring for palate expanders is easy. We encourage patients to turn their expander as we instruct them to. They should also get into the habit of rinsing their mouths with water to flush out any food particles between the roofs of their mouths and the expander. Palate expander patients should also brush their teeth and all around the expander and refrain from eating sticky or hard foods that can dislodge it. There is value in using mouth wash on a consistent basis as well. If mouth wash is used at least once a day, there are numerous benefits.

  • What foods should be avoided when palate expanders are worn?

Hard and sticky foods should be avoided throughout palate expander treatment. Popcorn, nuts, ice cubes, peanut brittle, hard chips, and corn-on-the-cob should be reserved for after treatment has been completed. Those with palate expanders may also want to avoid smaller types of nuts as they can cause discomfort if they get stuck in the expander. 

  • How long are palate expanders typically worn for?

In most cases, palate expanders are worn for four to seven months. However, this is based on the patient and the amount of correction they need.

  • What are some of the most common reasons patients need palate expanders?

There are a variety of reasons patients may benefit from palate expanders including:

  • Not enough room for permanent teeth which are currently erupting
  • Not enough room for permanent teeth which may require an extraction in the future
  • A back crossbrite with a narrow upper arch
  • A front crossbite with a narrow upper arch

Quad Helix

A Quad Helix, somewhat similar to a palate expander is a fixed expander for the upper jaw to straighten teeth. However, unlike a palate expander, no key is required to activate a quad-helix. The appliance is cemented to the molars and has four active springs that work to widen the arch.

Specifically, a quad helix can be used for treatment to widen the upper jaw in the front and/or back in order to rotate the upper first molars. Additionally, a quad helix is placed to widen the upper arch so that room can be made for crowded teeth or correct a crossbite. It is recommended that a three-month retention period be followed once the desired expansion has been achieved for the placement of a quad-helix. This means once there is success, it is not time to take the expander out. The goal is oral health for life.

Frequently Asked Questions About Quad Helix Expanders

  • How long are quad helix expanders worn?

In most cases, a quad helix expander is worn for three to six months.

  • What type of hygiene regime is expected while quad helix expanders are worn?

While a quad helix expander is worn, good oral hygiene is essential. Patients are required to thoroughly brush their teeth three times a day. If possible, they should carry a toothbrush with them and gently brush their appliance after every meal.

  • What foods should be avoided with quad helix expanders?

Hard, sticky, and chewy foods are discouraged while patients are undergoing treatment with a quad helix expander. Examples of these types of foods include chewing gum, toffees, chocolate bars, hard breads, and caramels. Try to avoid those Skittles and Starburst.

Schedule a Consultation Today!

At Sims Orthodontics we offer an array of treatments for our patients. If you feel that may need more information regarding palate expanders and quad helices, we can provide an array of information. Board certified by the American Board of Orthodontics, Dr. James “Clay” Sims would love to see you for an orthodontic consultation to discuss any questions you may have. Dr. Sims is confident that he will provide the orthodontic experience you have always wanted.

What to Expect When Getting a Palatal Expander

This is a video explanation of what it feels like to get a palatal expander. 

Hello, so this video is for anybody who wants information about their palatal expander. You are just getting one and don’t know what to expect or you have one and you’re just looking for help. The first thing I did when I got my palatal expander was to Google, “Will I ever eat again?”  The hardest thing is imagining it ever getting better; especially because beforehand you really don’t know what to expect. You hear people saying you’re not gonna be able to talk properly or you’re not going to be able to eat properly. Then you start getting scared. Well how bad can it really be?

It’s really easy to talk after having the expander in for  awhile. Here are a list of things that you should expect or might be helpful to know:

The first thing that you need to know relates to talking. When you very first get it you’re gonna be very weirded out by the way you’re talking. You’re not going to know what you can even say. You feel like you’re talking as if something is wrong with you. But that honestly does get better. Words like ‘week’, ‘weekly’, ‘sticky’, ‘key’, are still really hard to say. Words with k’s and g’s like ‘thingy’. Words with these types of sounds are really hard to say. And they will continue to be. Understand that it’s going to be almost impossible to sing.

Talking you can likely work around words, but singing you cannot. That was really a problem for me because I loved singing and now it’s like I cannot. I’m talking perfectly fine for the most part, but singing is a completely different story.

And the second most important thing you need to know is the very first time you try to swallow anything you’re going to think “what the heck??” “How? What’s going on?” It’s going to be really, really hard. I think that experience cannot be explained. It is so very hard to explain that experience.

As for eating, I did make a video about what you can/can’t eat with a palatal expander. That video was more towards people who more recently had an expander put in. After a while you’re capable to eat more things because you become accustomed to how to “slurp” it down. It’s almost like an instinct to know how to move the food around to not get it stuck. 

For the very first day, and second day, have tomato soup or soup with nothing in it. Even eating pudding is difficult, even eating yogurt is a challenge. It is crazy t state this but, swallowing water, I felt like I’m gonna just end up dying because I’m not going get enough nutrients because I can’t even drink enough water. I can’t eat anything, how am I supposed to continue to survive for the month that I have to wear this?

Just like the talking, it gets so much easier. Within a week you’re pretty much able to eat anything. Just during that week you have to tough it out. I know that’s easier said than done because the very first day I was trying to figure out “am I ever ever going to be able to do things normally again?” Everybody was saying it gets easier. 

My palatal expander is a lot bigger than most. Mine takes up the entirety of my mouth. It’s also pretty thick towards the back. The experience of swallowing for the first time, it’s a feeling in which your mouth and throat’s first extinct is to not want to get the food or beverage down. It would be comparable to having a giant piece of plastic in your mouth, but instead it is a big chunk of metal. Tour mouth knows it’s there, and it automatically wants to repulse it. When you’re swallowing, it’s difficult because your human instincts are trying to not choke, but at the same time you know it needs to go down so it’s really, really hard.

That said, it gets so much easier. Swallowing is not a problem whatsoever anymore. Not at all. Starting the second week everything was fine. Know that you have to tough it out for the first week. It’s going to be okay. I can promise you that. You’re going to survive. You’ll be okay.

And the third thing you should know is that you’re probably gonna have to wear expander longer than you imagined. I asked my orthodontist “How long do you think I have to have this in?”, and he said, “About three to four months.” It’s been five months and I still have three months to go.

I think they don’t really like to tell you the extent of how long you’re gonna have to wear it because they don’t want to completely discourage you. They know that once you are used to it, it’s not going to seem like a big deal. Know that even though it’s probably gonna be like six/seven/eight months, it’s not that long in comparison to your entire life.

After I had my braces in I have to be turning it for another two weeks. So it’s there to hold its place like with braces. Most of the moving happens within the first couple months. You have to keep it on for the final adjustments and for everything to stay in place. That’s what retainers are for. Retainers are there to hold it in place. That’s exactly how it is with the expanders. You’re gonna have to keep it in for a couple of months. Six months is very possible for holding it in its place so the jaw doesn’t move. We’re talking about moving your entire jaw right now. That’s a big deal! 

Number four – it does get better. Every little thing, eating, drinking, talking, surviving, it’s not gonna seem like anything else in life.

Number five. Something you also need to be prepared for is, it will probably make your tongue sore. For me, I  have a two lines scar, because of the fact that my tongue sets at the roof of my mouth. I very likely have the indentation of the expander on my tongue. Yu might find it’s a little bit sore on your tongue or around that area. 

Number six. Something you really should know is how to clean it and there are videos on YouTube you can search about how to clean it. I’ll just give you a general idea. These little stick things, the wispy cleaner, it’s an alternative to flossing; stick floss works great. They are really helpful to get under it and on the roof of your mouth especially if you just ate something like peanut butter.

I will always recommend the water floss Waterpik because it’s not only good for flossing but it’s also good to spray “up there” and it will take anything out. It’s extremely useful and valuable. It’s also good to use mouthwash in general so you can swish “up there” and make sure there’s no bacteria growing. That’s why I think the water flosser is so important, because it can just make sure that there’s nothing “up there”. Sometimes you really don’t even know there are food items stuck. For me, because it takes up the entire roof, there could be things up there and I don’t know it. It’s always good to water floss. 

The last thing to know is that it works. And it’s gonna work quickly, for the most part. I turned my one full turn everyday for a month or two and it did not take long at all for it to actually work. And it doesn’t really hurt. I highly suggest, as I’m sure your orthodontist suggested, to turn it at night and maybe for the first couple of days take Tylenol or Ibuprofen before you turn it. Then the pain or the “discomfort” really only lasts for a few minutes. You’re then able to go to sleep and it’s really not a big deal.

Tt really does work and you’re probably gonna get a gap in your front teeth. But, keep this in mind, even if you get a gap it can close on its own. Which is so weird, it’s so weird how that works because the gap will form in different places. First, you might get a gap on the side, then you might get a gap over here, you might have two gaps over here, then you can get a gap in the front, and then the gap can close. That’s what happened to me.

First, I got a pretty decent gap in the front and it was embarrassing; it was huge. And then after a few weeks that closed up. Just know it works and if you do get a gap and you feel uncomfortable about it it’s not gonna last long at all. An orthodontist will put on braces (or Invisalign) to close the gap if the gap doesn’t close on its own. 

Another positive thing there is to know about having a palatal expander is that if you have a palatal expander before you have braces, braces are going t seem like the easiest thing on the planet. So many people wh get braces are like “oh my gosh I hate braces, braces suck. I can’t eat anything, I can’t chew anything, talking is difficult.” After a palate expander, braces are a breeze.

Expanders are terminal and it affects everything. To me that was a very good thing. To have it so difficult at first really makes braces seem like no big deal. Once you do get the expander taken out and you only have braces, it’s going t be so awesome. You’re just going to be smiling all the time. It’s not even going be a big deal. You’re gonna talk a lot, and likely won’t even care about your braces. 

Everything is easy and you’ll likely be able to eat so much. Eating with braces is not a big deal. 

A palate expander is going to make the braces seem so much easier. It is going change your face. Don’t think that your entire face is going change but it is moving your literal mouth; it’s moving your jaw. 


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You're ready to get started.

We're ready to help.

We know orthodontics is a huge decision. We’d love to help you get started on the right foot. Click below to schedule your complimentary orthodontic consultation and let us equip you with the right tools for that decision-making process.