What Are The Different Types of Expanders

What Are The Different Types of Expanders


Expanders are an orthodontic appliance used to widen the jaw. This may be done to make more room for the teeth or to improve the position of the teeth or bite. There are many different types of orthodontic expanders that may be used according to the patient’s needs. 

What type of expander will you or your child need? Here’s an overview of the various expanders your orthodontist may recommend. 

Types of Orthodontic Expanders 

The following types of expanders may be recommended by your orthodontist: 

  • Removable. For mild cases, removable expanders are often effective. These can be taken out to eat and care for your teeth and then be put back in. 
  • Fixed. Some expanders are fixed to the teeth with metal bands. A fixed expander will stay in place until your orthodontist removes it. 
  • Self activated. An expander may be self activated, meaning you will have a key that can be inserted in the appliance and turned to gradually widen it. Your orthodontist will provide you with instructions for using your key. 
  • Spring loaded. A spring loaded expander will work on its own to gradually widen your jaw. The springs will exert the necessary force without any action on your part. 
  • Hybrid. Some expanders are spring loaded but also require a key to be used occasionally to readjust the appliance. 
  • Fast. A fast or rapid expander will exert more force on the teeth and jaw. This will produce faster results, but it may be more uncomfortable. 
  • Slow. A slow expander will adjust the teeth and jaw more gradually for increased comfort, but treatment will take more time. 
  • Continuous pressure. Some expanders will exert continuous pressure on the teeth and jaw, which may provide faster results. 
  • Intermittent pressure. With intermittent pressure expanders there will be periods of rest where there is no force exerted on the jaw. This can make treatment more comfortable but longer. 

Which Type is Best? 

The type of expander that is best for you or your child depends on the goal of the treatment and the extent that the jaw needs to be widened. Many different factors are taken into consideration when choosing an expander for a patient, such as: 

  • Age. Expanders are usually recommended around the age of 7 or 8, but they can be used for patients of all ages. The age of the patient may be a determining factor in which type of expander may be more effective. 
  • Orthodontic needs. The needs of the patient in terms of how far the jaw needs to be expanded and the current position of the teeth will also factor into the type of expander that is used. 
  • Lifestyle. Some patients and parents may find it difficult to stick to a routine of turning a key, meaning that a self-activated expander could be unsuccessful. 

Getting Started With Orthodontic Treatment 

All children should have an orthodontic evaluation by the age of 7. For children that show early signs of orthodontic issues, interceptive orthodontics may be recommended, which often includes appliances such as palatal expanders. Getting started with orthodontic treatment at an early age can reduce the need and longevity of future treatment. Demko Orthodontics provides free orthodontic evaluations and periodic monitoring until the time is right for treatment. 

Contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment.  

Frequently Asked Questions About Expanders 

How long does an expander need to be worn?

Average treatment time for palatal expanders is around 6 months. However, treatment varies based on the type of expander and the extent of the adjustment that is needed. Treatment could take up to a year or more. 

Does insurance cover orthodontic expanders?

If your dental insurance includes coverage for orthodontics, an expander may be covered. In most cases a dependent covered under the plan will have a total amount that can be applied to orthodontic treatment in their lifetime. If you choose to apply it to early treatment such as an expander, the remainder that is left can be applied to future treatment, such as braces.