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Rapid Palatal Expander 101

Rapid Palatal Expander

Are you or your child experiencing overcrowding in your mouth or crooked teeth? If so, you may have heard our team mention a treatment option called a rapid palatal expander. But what exactly is a rapid palatal expander and how can it help with your orthodontic issues?

What is a rapid palatal expander?

First, let’s start with the basics. A rapid palatal expander, also known as an RPE, is a device used to widen the upper jaw to create more space for crowded teeth. It is typically used in children and young adolescents, as their jaw bones are still growing and can be easily manipulated.

The RPE is made up of two pieces. The first is a metal framework with two bands that fit around the molars. The second is a screw in the middle that is turned by a key. The expander works by gradually widening the upper jaw bone over several weeks. This separation of the upper jaw bones is known as “palatal expansion.” It allows more room for the permanent teeth to come in straight.

Why would you need an RPE?

There are several reasons why our team may suggest this treatment option.

  • Crowding of Teeth: One of the most common reasons for using an RPE is to relieve overcrowding of teeth. Insufficient space in the mouth for all the teeth to come in properly can lead to crooked or overlapping teeth. By expanding the upper jaw, the RPE creates more space for the teeth to align properly and grow straight.
  • Crossbite: A crossbite is a condition where the upper teeth fit inside the lower teeth when biting down. This can cause uneven wear on the teeth and the potential for jaw misalignment. An RPE can expand the upper jaw, correcting the crossbite and allowing for a proper bite.
  • Narrow Upper Jaw: Some individuals may have a narrow upper jaw bone, which can lead to crowded or crooked teeth. By using an RPE, the jaw can be widened to its proper size, creating enough space for the teeth to come in straight.
  • Breathing and Swallowing Issues: A narrow upper jaw can lead to breathing and swallowing issues. An RPE can help to widen the jaw, allowing for better airflow and improved swallowing function.

How do I get an RPE?

Now that we know why an RPE may be necessary, let’s dive into the process of getting one.

  • Orthodontist Evaluation: The first step is to have an evaluation with Dr. Ogden. He will conduct a thorough examination and determine if an RPE is the best course of treatment for your orthodontic needs.
  • Teeth Impressions: If our team recommends an RPE, we will take impressions of your teeth. We will use these to create a custom expander that fits your mouth perfectly.
  • RPE Placement: Our team will then place the expander in your mouth and attach it to the molars with bands.
  • Operation Instructions: Our team will provide you with a key and instruct you on how to turn the screw to widen the expander. You must follow Dr. Ogden’s instructions on how often to turn the expander and how many turns to do at a time. Over-tightening can lead to discomfort and damage to the teeth and gums.
  • Progress Check: After a few weeks of turning the screw, our team will check the progress and make any necessary adjustments. Once we achieve the desired expansion, we will leave the RPE in place for a few months to allow the jaw to stabilize.
  • RPE Removal: Finally, we will remove the RPE and replace it with a retainer. This is to maintain the expansion and prevent any relapse. Make sure to wear the retainer as instructed by our team to ensure that the results of the RPE are permanent.

A rapid palatal expander is a useful orthodontic tool that can help correct many issues. If you or your child is experiencing any of the mentioned issues, consult with our team. We can determine the best course of action for your specific needs.

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About the Author: Robert T. Ogden, D.D.S.

Dr. Robert T. Ogden D.D.S. is an independent orthodontist serving Central Florida since 1994, and is proud to be the affordable option for local families who want straight teeth that lead to perfect smiles, all backed by a kind and friendly staff that instantly makes you feel at home. We take the time to explain all of your options, from In-Ovation C clear braces or SPEED System metal braces to clear aligners like Invisalign™. Plus, our state-of-the-art offices are designed to make your visit as fast and comfortable as possible. Schedule your free consultation today!

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