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How to Turn a Palatal Expander
By Jerome Shuman, DMD, MS
Board Certified Orthodontist
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After the Palatal Expander is cemented in place, your orthodontist will give you instructions on how often to turn the screw inside the Palatal Expander. Your orthodontist will provide you with a key to turn the screw. You will need to turn the expander yourself or have somebody else turn it for you. You may find our Turning a Palatal Expander Video useful in illustrating the technique described below.

To turn the screw on the expander, insert the key into the hole of the screw. Next, turn the screw by pushing towards the back of the mouth until you see the next hole appear. Then carefully remove the key from the screw while trying to avoid turning the screw backwards.

The most common mistake with Palatal Expanders is undoing the turn. Most people will correctly insert the key, correctly turn the screw by pushing the key towards the back of the mouth, but will then unwind the screw before removing the key. This action undoes the turn, so that no progress is made. Gently jiggle the key out of the keyhole after performing the turn to avoid this problem of backturning.

Another mistake commonly made in activating the Palatal Expander is not turning the screw a full turn before removing it. If you do not turn the screw a full turn before removing it, the next hole will not appear. If you accidentally remove the key before completing the full turn, simply place the key back in the first hole, turn the screw until you can see the second hole, then remove the key.

If you are activating the expander correctly, over time you may see a gap open up between the front teeth. This gap is temporary and often closes even before the expander is removed. Even when the gap closes, the back teeth are held in the widened position.

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Dr. Shuman is a Board Certified Orthodontist practicing in Portland, Maine. Read more about Dr. Shuman or visit his orthodontic practice online at


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