Rapid palatal expansion (RPE) is a fixed appliance, allowing very fast and efficient space of the upper jaw to be obtained. The RPE is less dependant on cooperation from the patient than a loose brace. Expansion of the upper jaw is not achieved in the same way as tooth realignment is (through the outward tilting of the teeth), but instead the bone-base of the upper jaw and palate are actually stretched and new bone is formed. RPE is mainly used in the treatment of the following tooth and jaw misalignments:
- The underdevelopment of the upper jaw
- The massive lack of space, which can make tooth extraction necessary.
An outstanding advantage of this clip is the improvement of nasal breathing, as the stretching of the upper jaw or palate simultaneously makes the floor of the nasal cavity wider and extends the upper respiratory tract. A crooked nasal septum could possibly be straightened automatically.
Using the RPE, the upper jaw can be widened very effectively within 2-3 weeks, by up to 12mm. As this clip does not take up too much space in the mouth, it does not interfere too much with speaking and is very well accepted by the children.
In adults, it is also possible to use the RPE, whereby frequent surgical support for the weakening of the palatal suture and the side walls of the upper jaw is required.
It just takes a few days to get used to wearing the device. During this time, teeth might be sensitive and speaking maybe hindered.
The screw of the RPE is adjusted 2 - 3 times a day by the patient for about 2 weeks. After having had the RPE in for about 6 months, new bone will have formed. Often, a loose clasp is needed afterwards. The emergence of a gap between the front teeth in the upper jaw is an indication that the clasp works. This gap will be reduced in the next few weeks and then closed.
The RPE can make brushing teeth more cumbersome, and patience and concentration will be required when cleaning. For the harder-to-reach areas, a smaller, round toothbrush and floss may be requried.