Schwarz Expander on a typodont

Appliance Profile What is the Purpose of the Schwarz Expander?

For many patients, a narrow arch is a common orthodontic problem and, if left untreated, can lead to severe crowding. The Schwarz Expander Appliance is removable or non-removable and used to expand lower dental arch by stimulating bone growth in width. It can be used to accomplish various treatment goals but is often used as the first appliance in an overall comprehensive plan of orthodontic treatment, referred to as Phase I, when the patient is young, and the dental arch is still developing to make room for all the future permanent teeth.

Frequent Questions Learn More About the Expander

The Schwartz Expander Appliance is anchored to bands on either side of the arch. There is a metal mechanism that is comprised of an expansion screw that is placed deep in the palate that is turned over time, allowing the appliance to widen and expand the dental arch. 

The goals of the Schwarz Expander Appliance include:

  • Improve facial growth and profile
  • Balance upper and lower jaw relationships
  • Improve smile
  • Optimize tongue function
  • Establish healthy breathing patterns
  • Create a good bite
  • Establish a healthy posture

Furthermore, if both the upper and lower arches require expansion, we may use the Schwartz Expander along with a Rapid Palatal Expander (RPE) in order to coordinate the expansion of both arches at the same time.

Before the Schwarz Expander feels comfortable, or the new normal for a while, you may sense some initial pressure and expect the following:

  • To feel a tingling or itch under the appliance.
  • To feel a tingling sensation across the bridge of the nose.
  • To feel pressure in the cheek area.
  • To see a space appear between your upper front teeth, don’t be alarmed. Remember, we are creating space for your other permanent teeth.

Remember, do NOT play with the appliance with your tongue because it may loosen the fit. Also, do NOT pick at the wires with your fingers or bite on pencils or pens.

An adult is needed to ensure proper activation (or widening) the Schwarz Appliance and we recommend doing it just before bedtime. A special key is used to activate the expander, and here are the steps:

  • Loop the string on the key around your finger or wrist so you don't swallow it.
  • Insert the key in its slot; it won't touch the roof of your mouth.
  • Push the key all the way from front to back.
  • Repeat this activation step as you have been instructed.
  • Remove the key and you are done.
  • If your appliance becomes loose, or if you have any questions, please give our office a call. If a band rubs your cheeks, place wax over it to protect your cheeks.

The Schwartz Appliance is adjusted as instructed until the palate has been widened enough. It is then left in place for about four additional months without further adjustment while the bone fills the center palatal suture or healing occurs. Usually, the treatment's total duration is between 8 to 10 months but will vary based on the individual needs of the patient.

Speech is different the first few days with any orthodontic appliance. These difficulties should disappear in a day or two. We recommend that you practice reading out loud, saying "s" words specifically, for fifteen-minute intervals several times a day until normal speech has returned. Don't worry; after just a few days, your appliance will feel like an old friend.

The first few days after getting the expander, your child may benefit from eating a soft food diet. Give them smoothies, pureed soups, mashed potatoes, yogurt, and, yes, even ice cream and pudding! But overall, avoid eating chewy or sticky candy like chewing gum, taffy, licorice, and caramels should be avoided. Hard and crunchy foods like popcorn, nuts, and ice are also not recommended with an expander. Instead, opt for softer snacks and try satisfying your child's sweet tooth with fruit or, again, softer desserts like ice cream. If your appliance gets food stuck to it while you are eating, try to take small sips of water after each bite of food to help wash the food down.

Cool water, toothpaste, and a toothbrush are needed to clean your appliance. Brush it as you would your teeth, paying attention to the bands that hold it in. Brush gently along the gum line to remove the plaque. Plaque sticks to plastic better than teeth, so extra brushing is essential, especially where the wires join the plastic. Brush often, at least three times per day, for two minutes at a time.