The “palate expander” or hyrax is a fixed expander. It expands the roof of the upper jaw (palate) and holds it while the teeth and bone adapt to that new position. This expander will remain in the mouth for a period of 3-9 months. The upper jaw (maxilla) is two separate halves during growth with an open suture down the middle. The expander will push the two halves of the jaw away from each other. Expansion comes from having the teeth pushed out to the side, (dental expansion) but the majority of the expansion comes from pushing the two halves of the jaw away from each other (skeletal expansion). Because the jaw is wider, it makes more room for the teeth to fit in. The expansion occurs when you or your parent use a key to turn the expansion screw on the appliance. You will be given specific directions for your case regarding how often and when to stop. After you are done turning, we will prevent the screw from turning backwards. Failure to follow directions will prolong treatment time.
WHAT TO EXPECT? The first few days of expansion expect SORENESS from the Teeth. It will subside in a few days. The most soreness will be after the placement and after a turning. Chewing will help the soreness go away faster. The soreness is no different than a muscle that hasn’t been used for a long time.
If you start using those sore muscles right away, the soreness goes away. The soreness in your mouth is not really coming from the teeth but rather from the ligaments that suspend the teeth in the tooth socket. The best advice is to use the teeth as soon as possible and to TAKE IBUPROFEN as prescribed on the package.
Also expect to see a SPACE BETWEEN THE TWO FRONT TEETH. It will develop within a few days of wearing the expander. The expander pushes the two halves of the jaw away from each other and the teeth follow. Do not worry about this space, as it will close fully later with the braces.
One of the biggest challenges will come in the area of SPEECH. Most find that they get used to speaking with the expander within two weeks. If you read your homework aloud you will get used to it very quickly. Remember, you always sound different to yourself than you do to others, which is why you never believe that it is your voice on the tape recorder.
EATING is another challenge. It can take a few weeks to adjust and during this time eat all foods in small morsels. This way if you have to swallow it immediately, you can. Stay away from long spaghetti noodles and sticky foods like white bread and peanut butter. Please keep your TEETH, TONGUE and EXPANDER clean. The expander may leave a groove in your tongue, which should not cause a problem. Should the groove become infected, it will cause a problem. Daily cleaning of your tongue with a toothbrush will help you to avoid an infection. You also need to keep your expander clean, since it is in contact with your teeth all day long.
The majority of patients will only require expansion one time, but it is important to remember that some patients will require expansion a second time depending upon the reason for the expansion and severity of the problem.
We hope that this will be a positive experience for you, and we want you to know that we will do everything we can to make it one. If there is anything that we can do for you during this treatment phase, please do not hesitate to ask. We are here for you and want to do whatever is necessary to provide you with the most comfortable treatment possible without sacrificing quality.
We wish you the best of luck with your new expander.