Expanders and Retainers in Fort Collins

Child with a retainer in fort collins co

Preparation Before Braces and Maintenance After

Although orthodontics is most often associated with braces or Invisalign, there are many other appliances used to achieve your perfect smile. Two of these are expanders and retainers, which are used before and after braces.

Palatal Expander

A palatal expander is custom made for your child’s mouth and widens the upper jaw by placing gentle pressure on the upper teeth each time the appliance is turned, making more room for adult teeth. Once the proper amount of expansion is achieved, the expander stays in place for a minimum of six months.

Expanding the upper jaw is something that cannot be accomplished without jaw surgery after your child stops growing, which is one of the reasons why it is important to get your child evaluated by an orthodontist at age seven.

An expander should not be a painful experience. It is normal to feel some pressure during the turning process, but it should not be anything more than mild discomfort. If your child experiences moderate to severe discomfort or pain, stop turning the appliance and call our office.

Rapid Palatal Expander (RPE) - Instructions and Care


  • You will be given a key to activate the RPE.
  • Place key in anterior hole of appliance, towards front teeth.
  • There is an etched arrow in the appliance pointing in the direction the key should be pushed. (It will be pointing back towards the throat/back of mouth)
  • Push key completely towards back of mouth until it stops, and the next hole can be seen fully in front of appliance.
  • Remove the key carefully so the new hole for the next activation is completely visible, by pulling straight down towards the tongue so as not to undo your complete turn.


It is normal to experience some amount of sensitivity immediately after turning the expander, even a tingling sensation in the sinuses!

If your expander falls out, please hold onto it, and call us during normal business hours.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at 970-484-3214

How to Turn the Expander

Play Video


Just like an athlete has to keep training to maintain their fitness level, you must wear your retainers after your braces are removed to maintain that gorgeous smile. It is recommended that you continue to wear your retainers for life!

Retainer Instructions

  • When you first get your braces off it is important to get 12 hours of retainer wear every day, unless instructed otherwise. After a couple of years, most individuals can decrease their retainer use to three to five times a week to maintain their result.
  • Take your retainers out when eating…and always put retainers in their case!
  • When retainers are not in your mouth they should ALWAYS be in a retainer case. Pets love to chew on them, so keep them safe!
  • Retainers are breakable, so treat them with care. If retainers are lost or broken, call us immediately.
  • Do not try to adjust retainers yourself, call us to schedule an appointment if you think adjustments are necessary.
  • Always bring your retainers to your appointments.
  • Retainer replacement is expensive. However, with proper care retainers will last for years!
  • Keep retainers away from hot water, hot car dashboards, pockets, the washing machine, and napkins.


Separators are little elastic bands that we floss between your back teeth to create space for your expander.

Separator Instructions

  • If they are uncomfortable, please take Advil or Tylenol as needed for pain.
  • While they are in place, please brush well around them but don’t floss as this could make them come out before we see you next.
  • Do no chew gum or eat anything sticky or chewy while separators in place.
  • Do not play with them or pick at them.
  • If they come out more than 4 days before your next visit, please call us during business hours and we will schedule a visit to replace them. This is not an emergency.

How to Replace a Separator

Play Video

Braces Maintenance

How to Clip off a Loose Wire

Play Video

Replacing a Color Tie

Play Video

How to Brush with Braces

Play Video