Do Palate Expanders Hurt? What’s Normal and What’s Not

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Are you about to get a palate expander? I know they can seem intimidating, and most of my patients wonder if palate expanders hurt.

I can tell you from personal experience that the vast majority of my patients (kids included) adjust very quickly. Most are eating and talking normally within days.

In this article, we’re going to go over some of the sensations you may experience when getting a palate expander. But first, let’s address the pain:

Palate expanders don’t hurt, but they do cause some mild soreness. You’ll be experiencing pressure when the palate expander is installed, and tightness right after the key is turned. You may feel a dull pain at incisor level, where the suture is, and your molars may also hurt a bit.

Expect these symptoms to ease out in a week or so, as the suture gradually opens. Obviously, every patient is unique and some may experience more discomfort than others. It’s best to be prepared and know what to expect.

Does It Hurt When They Put The Palate Expander In?

Palate expansion is a type of orthodontic treatment that’s necessary if you have a posterior crossbite or crowded teeth. Palatal expanders are the best appliance for early orthodontic intervention, as they have the potential to permanently correct narrow arches.

Do palatal expanders hurt?
Palate expanders shouldn’t cause any intense pain, although you might experience some tightness. It’s the molar band spacers that hurt in the beginning, and not the palate expander itself.

How long does it take for the soreness caused by spacers to go away?
Expect 24-48 hours of pain from spacers. The teeth should get used to them after a couple of days, but if you have significant tooth pain, contact the office immediately.

There are two types of palate expanders that go on your upper jaw: bonded and banded. While these orthodontic appliances both help with alignment, they look drastically different. The process of getting them on your teeth is different too.

The main thing to remember is that banded palate expanders need spacers, or separators, while banded palate expanders don’t.

Here they are side by side so you can tell the difference:

The banded palate expander is the most common, so I’m going to assume this is what you’re going to get. Before cementing the device to your teeth, your orthodontist will need to go through a few steps:

  • You’ll need a band fitting appointment so that you get the best band size that fits your teeth.
  • Your orthodontist will apply separators between your teeth, also called spacers, to make room for those bands between your teeth. Check this article to know what to expect about the pain caused by spacers.
  • You’ll need to wear your spacers for 7-14 days until it’s time to cement the expander.
  • Your orthodontist will remove the spacers, dry your teeth, try on the expander, and place the palate expander using a special adhesive. This process is quick and shouldn’t hurt, but you might experience some tightness between your back teeth.
  • You may receive traditional braces along with your palatal expander or once the expansion is complete.

Here’s what the spacers look like:

Cementing bonded palatal expanders is similar, minus the spacers and band fitting part. Bonded palatal expanders are made up of acrylic blocks that cover the entire biting surface of multiple teeth. Bonded expanders don’t go between teeth, and, as a result, don’t cause tightness and pain. 

If you’re getting a bonded palate expander, expect the process to be quick and painless. You’ll feel a little bit of tightness since you now have multiple teeth glued together on each side, and your bite will feel very open and different.

You can ease the tightness from these orthodontic appliances with over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen. Either way, the pain should go away in a couple of days.

Now that your orthodontic expander is on, you’ll have other sensations to worry about – like the one you’ll get when turning the screw. Let’s learn more about turning the expander key:

Does It Hurt When You Turn The Screw On your Palate expander?

After your palate expander is placed, you’ll be given a special key that you’ll use to activate the appliance. This is the part of the process that can cause some discomfort, but the amount of tightness varies from patient to patient.

  • When you turn the key for the first time, you’ll feel pressure in your palate as the expander begins to widen. This pressure can be uncomfortable, but it should not be painful. Some patients describe the sensation as a feeling of fullness or tightness in their mouth.
  • You should also feel some pressure on your molars, the back teeth that are supporting the appliance. Some patients even report feeling some tension in their front teeth as a gap begins to form in the middle.
  • Some patients experience a feeling of pressure / tingling in the bridge of their nose and even cheekbones.
  • In rare cases, some people may experience headaches and dizziness.
  • Most patients will have trouble eating and produce excess saliva for the first few days. Check our guide on how to eat with a palate expander.

The pain shouldn’t last more than a few days, so if you’re getting any unusual symptoms, it’s best to stop turning the screw and contact your orthodontist.

Does A Palate Expander hurt when you eat?

Eating with your palate expander will be a painful experience for the first couple of weeks. Your molars will most likely be sensitive as they take all the pressure from your device.

It’s normal to feel pain in your back teeth even weeks after getting your palate expander. However, the pain should only last a few seconds, as you apply pressure on your teeth while chewing. Constant pain is not normal and you should contact your doctor immediately.

Another reason why your expander might cause pain while eating is sores or ulcers. The palate expander may be digging into your gums or digging into the roof of the mouth, which may make it very uncomfortable. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s temporary and the pain subsides in a couple of weeks.

Do palate expanders cause nausea?

You might notice that your palate expander is making you nauseous and even sick. You may also drool a lot in the first couple of days. Don’t worry, you’re not experiencing any metal toxicity or other issues like that.

Palate expanders may cause nausea because they sit far back on top of the roof of the mouth. That specific area often triggers vomiting reflexes in some patients. The same thing happens to patients with dentures, or when getting dental impressions.

To alleviate nausea caused by your expander, try to suck on sour candy or jelly for a little while until you get used to your appliance. Don’t chew the candy, and don’t make it a habit to consume sweets constantly. This is just an emergency trick to get rid of your nausea in the first few days.

Does It Hurt When Your Palatal Expander Is Removed?

When it’s time to remove your palate expander, you may experience some short-lived pain and discomfort. Your molars will likely be sensitive and the gums may be swollen around them. Removing the expander may involve some pressure and pulling, loud noises, and a little bleeding from your sore gums.

Overall, it shouldn’t be too unpleasant and you’ll be glad you got rid of your expander.

We remove palatal expanders with a special instrument called band removing plier that looks like this:

Band Removing Plier

The band removing plier is applied underneath the bands at gum level and on top of the biting surface and then squeezed gently. You may hear a loud crack which is the band cement breaking. Once the expander is loosened on one side, it’s easier to get it off completely.

Over the next few days, your gums, and even the gum on top of your palate may look red and raw where the expander once stood. This is also normal, and the mucosa should heal in a matter of days. Massage the gums gently with a soft brush to help them recover faster.

Are Palatal Expanders Painful? What To Expect

While the palatal expander process is generally not painful, some discomfort is normal as your teeth and palate adjust to the appliance. Here are some things you should expect:

  • Pressure and tightness: Your or your child may experience some discomfort when getting a palate expander. Pressure and tightness may be felt in their mouth as the teeth and roof of the mouth adjust to the palate expander. This feeling should go away within 2-3 days after receiving the palatal expander.
  • Soreness: Your gums and upper arch may be sore for a few days after receiving the palatal expander, and when you turn the key. The molar bands will be digging into the gums as they settle. This soreness should be mild and can be managed with over-the-counter pain medication like Orajel or acetaminophen.
  • Difficulty eating: Your top molars may hurt for a few weeks since they’re under a lot of pressure, both from the expander and the pressure of your bite. This may make it hard to chew. Stick to soft foods and avoid hard, sticky, or crunchy foods until you get used to your appliance.
  • Speech difficulties: It may take some time to adjust to speaking with your expander, and you may experience some difficulty pronouncing certain sounds. This should improve as you get used to your appliance. If you want to speed things up, try practicing at home and reading out loud.
  • Gums swelling: due to improper oral hygiene, some patients may experience gum swelling and bleeding. Sometimes, the gums get so inflamed that they grow over the molar bands. This will only get resolved once the appliance is removed, but you can prevent this side effect by using a good water flosser.

While rare, there are a few less common side effects that you should be aware of:

  • Ulcers: Some patients may develop small ulcers or sores in their mouth from the expander rubbing against their gums or cheeks. Palate expanders can also dig into the roof of the mouth. These ulcers can be treated with over-the-counter topical ointments or gels.
  • Allergic reactions: In rare cases, patients may be allergic to the materials used in the expander or the adhesive used to hold it in place.
  • Headaches: Some patients may experience headaches while wearing an expander. This can be caused by the pressure that the appliance places on the multiple bones in the upper jaw.


Wearing a palate expander is no joke. It will probably disrupt your life for the following weeks, and you may also get braces in the meantime. But since this type of orthodontic treatment lasts 6 months, on average, you’ll soon return to your normal self. You’ll eat and speak normally before you know it.

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