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Temecula and Lake Elsinore - (951) 699-8011
Payment Options, if Qualified

Rapid Palatal Expanders and Palatal Expanders

At Burke & Redford Orthodontists, Dr. Ryan Redford and Dr. Michael Burke have been serving the communities of Riverside County with exceptional orthodontic care for over 30 years.

One of the key treatments we offer to correct dental alignment and jaw issues in children and teens is the use of rapid palatal expanders (RPE), sometimes referred to more concisely as “palatal expanders”.

We will discuss these devices, their purposes, mechanisms, slight differences, and how they can benefit your child’s orthodontic health.

What is a Rapid Palatal Expander (RPE)?

A rapid palatal expander is a specialized type of palatal expander designed to widen the upper jaw quickly. It is often used to correct severe crossbites and create space in the upper jaw.

Purpose of a Rapid Palatal Expander

 Correction of Crossbites: An RPE can widen the upper jaw to match the width of the lower jaw in cases of back tooth crossbites.

Space Creation: In situations where additional upper arch space is required, an RPE can be beneficial.

Effective During Childhood and Early Adolescence: Best suited for younger patients before the fusion of the mid-palatal suture (usually around puberty).

How Does a Rapid Palatal Expander Work?

An RPE uses a screw mechanism. The RPE is typically turned one (or in some cases) two times per day with each turn widening the upper jaw ¼ of a millimeter. This rapid expansion results in separation of the mid-palatal suture (growth plate), effectively widening the upper jaw.

The Expansion Process

The rapid expansion process usually takes a few weeks to achieve the desired results. Once enough upper jaw widening has been achieved, the expander device remains in the mouth while the widened growth plate fills with bone.

Types of Rapid Bonded and Banded Palatal Expanders

Banded Expanders: These are attached to the teeth with bands around the molars, ensuring stability during rapid expansion.

Banded Palatal Expander
Banded Expander
banded expander
Banded Expander

Bonded Expanders: These are bonded directly to the teeth with an acrylic material on the biting surfaces of the back teeth.

Bonded Palatal Expander
Bonded Palatal Expander

What is a Palatal Expander?

A palatal expander is an orthodontic appliance used to widen the upper jaw (maxilla). This device is essential in correcting crossbites, creating space for crowded teeth, and improving overall dental alignment.

Purpose of a Palatal Expander

Correcting Crossbites: When the upper jaw is too narrow to fit properly with the lower jaw, it results in a crossbite. A palatal expander helps by widening the upper jaw to ensure a proper bite.

Creating Space: Crowded teeth can lead to misalignment and other dental issues. By expanding the upper jaw, a palatal expander creates additional space for alignment of teeth.

Improving Dental Alignment: Overall dental health is improved when teeth are properly aligned. This device helps in achieving a more balanced and symmetrical dental structure.

How Does a Palatal Expander Work?

The palatal expander consists of a screw mechanism situated in the center of the device. This screw is turned periodically (usually daily or every other day) to apply gentle pressure on the teeth and jaw. The pressure stimulates either widening of the upper jaw mid-palatal suture or a tipping movement of the back teeth, gradually widening the upper arch. Other versions of expanders use springs instead of expansions screws or a series of acrylic plates that gradually get wider throughout the process.

The Expansion Process

The expansion process is gradual, typically taking several months to achieve the desired results.

Types of Palatal Expanders

Fixed Expanders: These are attached to the teeth with bands around the molars. They remain in place throughout the treatment period.

Removable Expanders: These can be taken out by the patient for cleaning and maintenance, although they need to be worn as prescribed to be effective.

Comparing Rapid Palatal Expanders (RPE) and Palatal Expanders

While both devices serve the same fundamental purpose of widening the upper arch, their differences in speed and application make them suitable for different situations.

Speed of Expansion

Rapid Palatal Expander: Quick expansion over a few weeks.

Palatal Expander: Gradual expansion over several months.

Frequency of Adjustments

Rapid Palatal Expander: Adjusted daily

Palatal Expander: Often adjusted only by the orthodontist on a less frequent basis


Rapid Palatal Expander: Ideal for efficient correction and space creation.

Palatal Expander: Suitable for gradual, controlled expansion.

Effectiveness Window

Rapid Palatal Expander: Most effective before the fusion of the mid-palatal suture.

Palatal Expander: Can be effective at older ages when the back teeth in the upper jaw tilt towards the palate and can be tipped out towards the cheeks.

Posterior Crossbite Before Image
Posterior Crossbite Before and After of Burke & Redford Patient
Posterior Crossbite After Picture
Posterior Crossbite After Picture of Burke & Redford Patient

The Role of Burke & Redford Orthodontists

At Burke & Redford Orthodontists, our experienced team, led by Dr. Ryan Redford and Dr. Michael Burke, provides personalized and effective orthodontic solutions. We understand that each patient is unique, and we tailor our treatments to meet individual needs.

Comprehensive Evaluation

Our process begins with a thorough evaluation of your child’s dental structure. Using advanced diagnostic tools, we assess the alignment and spacing of the teeth and jaw. This evaluation helps us determine the most suitable treatment plan, whether it involves a palatal expander or another orthodontic appliance.

Customized Treatment Plans

Based on the evaluation, we develop a customized treatment plan that addresses your child’s specific needs. Our goal is to ensure effective results with minimal discomfort.

Ongoing Support and Care

Throughout the treatment process, we provide ongoing support and care. Regular check-ups allow us to monitor progress and make any necessary adjustments. We educate our patients and their families on maintaining oral hygiene and caring for their orthodontic appliances.

Advanced Orthodontic Technology

At Burke & Redford Orthodontists, we leverage the latest advancements in orthodontic technology to deliver superior care. Our state-of-the-art equipment and techniques ensure precise and efficient treatments, contributing to better outcomes and patient satisfaction.

ceramic braces orthodontist
One of Our Amazing Patients with a Gorgeous Smile Transformation at Burke & Redford Orthodontists!

Benefits of Rapid Palatal Expanders

Palatal expansion offers significant benefits, including:

Improved Oral Health: By correcting dental alignment, these devices help reduce the risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health issues.

Enhanced Esthetics: Proper alignment of the teeth and jaw enhances the overall appearance of your child’s smile.

Better Functionality: Correcting alignment issues improves chewing, speaking, and overall oral function.

Preventing Future Problems: Early intervention with expanders can prevent more severe dental issues in the future, potentially reducing the need for more extensive treatments later.

If you are considering orthodontic treatment for your child or teenager, we invite you to request a consultation by calling our office on (951) 699-8011 during business hours.

Together, Dr. Redford and Dr. Burke can determine the best course of action to ensure a healthy, beautiful smile for your child or teen. Contact us today to learn more about our orthodontic services and how we can help. Our orthodontists will be happy to answer any questions you may have about Rapid Palatal Expanders and Palatal Expanders during your consultation.

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