A Rapid Palatal Expander (RPE) is a structure fixed on the upper jaw of the mouth with an objective to expand the maxilla (upper jaw) wider. It is an appliance used in advanced orthodontic treatment for creating space between the upper jaw line lines. It is used to correct cross bites by developing space.
Who Need Rapid Palatal Expander?
If during an oral examination of your teeth dentist identifies that there your posterior teeth are overlapped, you may be recommended for a rapid palatal expander. In brief when your upper teeth fall on the inner parts of the lower teeth line in the rear part of your mouth, the condition of crossbite or overlapping of teeth arise.
Crossbite can be corrected using RPF as it may provoke the uneven development of the lower jaw. It is recommended to get this procedure done at a young age as after maturity the palatal tissues gets fused and it takes longer time to fix the problem.
In adults, the upper jaw is widened facilitating RPE and performing an oral surgery. The entire process is termed as Surgically Assisted Rapid Palatal Expander (SARPE). In this operation the palatal tissues are broadened facilitating side releasing incisions in which the entire expansion is performed in one go.
How to Turn an Expander?
RPF activation can be performed by a guardian, parent or some other people. You cannot turn it on your own.
You would be provided with a tiny wire to insert into the screw of the RPE having a small hole. This wire has a plastic gripper for better grip. Just ensure that the wire is linked with the handle so it doesn’t go into the patient’s throat.
Holding the wire using two fingers put the wire inside the outside hole of the expander and now revolves it towards the rear portion of the mouth and let it stop when it reaches the end. Now pull out the wire from the back of the mouth.You can view a hole in the outer side to move the wire for the next turn.
The entire rotation of moving from front to back is termed as one turn. Generally you need to turn the RPE one or two times a day and continue this process for several days. After some days the orthodontist examines your expander to find if further turns are required. If it is not required, he will ask you to stop turning the expander any more.
How long Should RPE be Used?
Once your orthodontist examines and says that the expander has been turned sufficiently, and crossbite situation has been removed, the RPE is left inside the mouth for nearly three months to close the palatal tissues with new bone structure and also to make it firm. Early removal of RPE may lose some width gained through the expansion.
Palatal Expander Types
Usually there are two kinds of RPEs.
Hyrax Palatal Expanders – This expander can be kept clean by the patient.
Tissue Borne Expander – It is also known as Haas Expander made of acrylic. This expander is difficult to clean as large quantity of food get stuck between the palate and the acrylic. The gum tissues get inflamed and may swell leading to discomfort.
There is one more category of palatal expander, which can be termed as a removable palatal expander. It can be fixed and removed by the wearer. But such expanders are quite ineffective and often do not get the bony orthopedic setting, except tipping of rear teeth. This type of expander is often facilitated in a few instances but not to expand the central palatal suture.
Problems Associated with RPE
The associated problems could be that one portion may come out loose. During the expansion the RPE may come out of the teeth. If you wiggle the expansion it may go loose.
Often after turning the expansion, you can receive nose bleed. Albeit, it is quite rare you should be aware of. As you are widening the palatal tissues that act as the ground of your nose, your nose may bleed. Once the bleeding is controlled you may get further treatment.
Precautions with Expander
You should avoid eating some food items like hard and sticky food. You should also brush your expander while brushing your teeth. Pay special attention to the center and sides of the expander. If you find some food particle lodged you should try to remove it by cleaning your mouth with water or using a brush.
Correct use of RPE requires consultant from an orthodontics having experience in performing such kind of treatment. Above things should be taken care of while using RPE for its positive impact, without any side harm to your teeth.