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.

Text: Before the quad helix, there was an orthodontic appliance called the coffin spring.

 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 ability 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.

Text: A 2000 study in The Angle Orthodontist found that while the palate expander was somewhat successful in adults, it wasn’t nearly as successful as it was for children.

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.

  • 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.

  • 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

Text: Laguna Beach star Kristin Cavallari began her orthodontic treatment in 6th grade when her orthodontist fitted her with a palate expander.

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.

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.

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 either just got or is getting or currently has and has had for a while and just wants information about their palatal expander. You are just getting one and you kind of just don’t know what to expect or you have one and you’re just looking for help because I think the first thing that I did when I got my palatal expander is “Will I ever eat again?” into Google. Cause’ I think, you know, the hardest thing is imagining it ever getting better and especially beforehand you really don’t know what to expect because you hear people saying you’re not gonna be able to talk properly or you’re not gonna be able to eat properly and then you start getting scared. Well how bad can it really be?

I mean, as you can probably notice you probably cannot tell that much that I have one because of the way that I’m talking. I have had it for about five months and you can’t tell. It’s really easy to talk after a while. So, anyway, if you’re in that situation I made a little list of things that you should expect or just might be helpful to know, if you either have one or just are going to be getting one soon.

So, the first thing that you need to know, which is a very obvious thing is about the talking. When you very first get it you’re gonna be like so weirded out by the way you’re talking. You’re not gonna know what you can even say. You feel like you’re talking like something is wrong with you. But, you know, that honestly does get better and I know I’m gonna keep saying that it gets better and it’s gonna be super hard to believe that in the first week. Words like ‘week’, ‘weekly’, ‘sticky’, ‘key’, are still really hard to say. Words with k’s and g’s like ‘thingy’. I don’t know if that’s really a word but words like that are very difficult to say. And they will continue to be and just like talking it’s gonna be pretty much impossible to sing.

Talking you can work around words, but singing you can’t. And it’s really a problem for me because I loved singing and now it’s like I can’t but, you know, I’m trying to not make this negative but just know that if you’re having a problem talking, I’m talking perfectly fine for the most part. And you probably just know you’re gonna get to that point and it didn’t take me five months to get to this I mean, like literally a month later even like two weeks later I was speaking fine. It really wasn’t that noticeable. It’s just getting used to it is really hard. But you will.

And the second most important thing you needed to know is the very first time you try to swallow anything you’re gonna be like what the heck? How? What’s going on? Its gonna be really really hard. And I think that experience cannot be explained it just is so hard to explain that experience. This video could also be for parents if their children is having it so if your child is gonna be getting a palatal expander these are some things that you might wanna know.

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 just got one. After a while you’re more capable to eat more things because you become more accustomed to how to slurp it down, or how to get around. I don’t know, it’s kind of like just an instinct to know how to move the food around to not get it stuck. And it just becomes easier to not get it stuck. But, yeah, I’ll put that link to that video for things that are easier to eat when you first get one.

For the very first day, and second day, just have tomato soup or soup with nothing in it. Even having pudding is difficult, even having yogurt, I mean I tried to have yogurt in the morning right when I got it in and- cause it’s not about chewing it’s about swallowing that’s the hardest part. And swallowing water, I felt like I’m gonna just end up dying because I’m not gonna get enough nutrients because I can’t even drink enough water. I can’t even eat anything, how am I supposed to continue to survive for the month that I have to wear this if I can’t even eat.

But just like the talking it gets so much easier. Within a week you’re pretty much able to eat anything. So just during that week you have to kind of just as much as you can, tough it out. And I know that’s easier said than done because, like I said, the very first day I was trying to figure out am I ever ever going to be able to do things normally again? And everybody was saying it gets easier, you won’t even know. And I’m like how do you not know? Like how do you ever get used to this?

Just so you know my palatal expander is a lot bigger than most. I mean a lot of people’s is just a little tiny metal square in the middle, mine takes up the entirety of my mouth. And it’s pretty thick towards the back, and the experience of swallowing for the first time, it’s almost like you’re mouth and throat’s first extinct is to not want to. Because it’s almost like if you have a giant piece of plastic in your mouth, which you do, or a big chunk of metal. You know, your mouth knows it’s there, and it automatically wants to repulse it, doesn’t want to choke. So pretty much when you’re swallowing it’s difficult because your human bodily instincts are trying to not choke, but at the same time you know it needs to go down so it’s just really really hard.

Like I said, it gets so much easier. Swallowing is not a problem whatsoever anymore. Not at all. For the second week everything was fine. So, really, just know that you just 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, and this is kind of a negative thing, especially if it’s your first week, you’re gonna be like oh my gosh. But, 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 was like “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 wanna completely just discourage you. Because they know that once you are used to it, it’s not gonna seem like a big deal. So, just 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.

Cause the thing is you’re not gonna have to turn it for that long time you’re probably gonna have to turn it for- I only had to turn it mine for like a month or two. I mean I think it was like two months turning it, maybe less. I don’t even know, it was just a really short amount of time turning it. But, after that you have to keep it in so it doesn’t go back. And then, later on you might find out that you have to turn it even more.

Like me, after I had my braces in now I have to be turning it for another two weeks, and things like that. So, pretty much, it’s there to hold its place kind of like with braces. Most of the moving happens within the first couple months, but then it’s like obviously 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. So, that’s kinda how it is with the expanders, you’re gonna have to keep it in for a couple of months. Six months, mostly, for just holding it in its place so the jaw doesn’t move. Cause we’re talking about moving your entire jaw right now, so… that’s a big deal. It’s gotta sustain. So, just know that it’s probably gonna be a little bit more, but it’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be fine.

Number four, like I keep saying, it does get better. Every little thing, eating, drinking, talking, surviving, just pretty soon it’s not gonna seem like anything. It’s not gonna seem like it’s taking over your whole life. It’s just gonna be there and you’re gonna just get so used to it that it’s gonna literally feel like just the roof of your mouth. You got a bionic mouth.

And also something you also need to be prepared for is it will probably make your tongue sort of sore. It’s kind of depending on the kind you have. For me I literally probably have like a two lines scar, because of the fact that your tongue sets at the roof of your mouth so, you know, I just probably have the indentation of the thing on my tongue. That was a problem for like the second week-ish but then it just wasn’t a problem anymore. You know you might find it’s a little bit sore on your tongue or just around that area. But like I said you’re so used to it after a while so if that happens.

Number six was it? Something you really should know is how to clean it and there are videos on YouTube you can search about how to clean it but I’ll just give you a little general idea. I always talk about these things but I don’t know what they’re called but they are these little stick things, the wispy cleaner, you know like the things you’re supposed to put in between your teeth to clean, it’s like an alternative to flossing. It’s like stick floss or something like that. Really helpful to get under it and on the roof of your mouth especially if you just ate something like peanut butter or something got stuck in there and you want to get it out.

Highly highly will always recommend the water floss Waterpik because it’s not only good for flossing but that’s also good to just spray up there and it will take pretty much anything out. So it’s really really important. It’s also good to just use mouthwash in general so you can just kinda swish up there and make sure there’s no bacteria growing or anything. That’s why I think the water flosser is so important because it can just make sure that there’s nothing up there because sometimes you really don’t even know. For me because it takes up the entire roof there could be things up there, like most of the time you can feel them but sometimes you can’t. So it’s just always good to water floss that and to just pick if you have to and as time progresses you will know weird ways to get the food out of your mouth. Like making weird sounds like “huff”, it’s kind of like fake sneezing sometimes I have to do to get things out, just kind of with pressure get the food out.

The last thing to know, last positive 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 like a month or two, like I said, 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 like Tylenol or Ibuprofen before you turn it in the night and then the pain or the “discomfort” really just lasts like a few minutes and then you’re able to go to sleep and it’s really not a big deal.

And then pretty soon it 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 kind of embarrassing, it was huge. And then after a few weeks that closed up. So, it works. 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 and sometimes an orthodontist will do the thing that once the gap forms they’ll put the braces (or Invisalign) on to close the gap if the gap doesn’t close on its own. Or some people are in situations where they already have braces and they put the expander on with it.

Then another most 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 gonna seem like the easiest thing in the planet. So many people just 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. And you’re gonna be like, “pshhh”.

Braces are gonna seem like a breeze after having a palatal expander because braces are just on the front. Expanders are terminal and it affects everything. But to me that was a very good thing. To have it so difficult at first really makes braces seem like no big deal and then once you do get the expander out and you just have braces, it’s just gonna seem like so awesome. And you’re just gonna be smiling all the time, and it’s not even gonna be a big deal, you’re gonna talk a lot, and you’re gonna not even care about your braces. You’re gonna be like you know what it’s super easy to clean.

Everything is easy and you’re gonna probably just be able to eat so much. Eating with braces is not a big deal. I mean, when I eat I don’t usually consider my braces. I mean, I do obviously, I do have to but I don’t think “oh I can’t eat that because I have braces”. But I do think I can’t eat that because I have a palatal expander. I mean, I can pretty much eat anything but I know I’m like “eh” spaghetti noodles are gonna be difficult because of my palatal expander. But once you get that out it’s gonna be like anything…

So just so you know it’s gonna get better, it’s gonna make the braces seem so much easier, it’s gonna move, it’s gonna fix everything. it’s gonna fix the problem and like I said along with the fact that actually works, it’s gonna change your face. I mean don’t worry about that either, don’t think that your entire face is gonna change but it is moving your literal mouth, it’s moving your jaw. So it could just change your face a little bit. But don’t worry too much about that because it’s not gonna be hugely noticeable. But for me I noticed it being a positive thing. And, it’s just good. And then if you take a picture of the roof of your mouth you can really tell that things are expanded. And things are where they should be.

Pretty much, just know that it’s a positive thing, it doesn’t hurt that much; focus on the positives. Even though it sucks, it does get easier. It becomes a problem all down the months, every once in awhile you’re just gonna get really annoyed of it. But, it’s gonna end someday. Everything is gonna be okay. Everything’s gonna be fine. Don’t worry about it, you’ll be okay. Everything’s gonna be good. You can do it.

Anyway, if you want to watch the the video about what to eat and what not to eat the link is in the description below. And if you want to search videos about how to clean it just type that in to the top bar. I’ve seen some good videos about it so, that’s pretty much all that I can say on that topic. And I really hope this helps you out, if you have any other questions or anything about your personal situation that you might want to ask me about feel free to leave a comment. If this video helped you let me know. Let me know just if you’re getting one, I want to hear your story and how long you have to have it in. Just tell me everything cause that’s fun.