what is a quad helix expander

The Patient’s Guide to a Quad Helix Expander

By  Dr. Dustin Coles – Premier Orthodontics

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You may have had an orthodontist recommend a quad helix expander for you or your child, and then wondered what they were talking about. Watch the video below or read this article where we discuss what a quad helix expander is, how it works, and answer any of the other questions you may have right now.

What is a Quad Helix Appliance?

A quad helix is an appliance that is used to expand or widen out the upper teeth.  There are several different types of expanders that orthodontists may use, but the quad helix has a few unique features that we’ll cover below.

One big advantage of a quad helix appliance is that it is “pre-loaded”. This means that it doesn’t require any manual adjustments by the parent or patient, which should give anyone a big sigh of relief. Before the appliance is placed in it is pre-expanded; upon insertion, the orthodontist will compress the appliance and place it on the teeth.  

Other expander models will require manual adjustment by the parent or the patient. The quad helix makes it easier because it consistently works without patients having to worry about or remember to activate the appliance.

To see an animation of a quad helix expander watch the video below:

What does a quad helix do?

A quad helix is used to correct a few different orthodontic problems. Some of those problems can include:

  • A posterior crossbite
  • Narrow or constricted upper arch
  • Crowding of the upper teeth

Below we’ll outline how a quad helix helps to correct these specific problems.

Using a Quad Helix to Correct a Crossbite

A posterior crossbite can happen when the upper teeth are too narrow compared to the lower teeth. This causes the lower jaw to be “out-of-line” with the upper jaw. In order to close all the way down, one would have to shift the jaw to either the left or the right.

quad helix for crossbite
In this picture you can see that the individual must shift their jaw to the right causing the lower jaw to be out-of-line with the upper jaw.

Having a crossbite can cause a few problems, including:

  1. Wearing down and damaging the teeth due to an unbalanced bite
  2. Asymmetric growth of the jaw due to repeated shifting 
  3. Jaw pain and TMJ soreness


By expanding the upper teeth, any interferences preventing you from biting in the correct position would be removed.

Using a Quad Helix to Correct a Narrow Upper Arch

A narrow upper arch can cause both cosmetic and functional problems. A wide smile generally looks more pleasing to the eye, but having a narrow arch can also lead to some airway problems. Individuals with a narrow upper arch generally have less room for their tongue, which can lead to the tongue sitting further back in the mouth than is natural.  

Having this tongue position may lead to a more constricted airway, decreasing the nasal passageway as you breathe.  This can lead to increased risk of snoring, sleep apnea, and poorer sleep.

constricted airway

A quad helix, and most any other orthodontic expander, widens the upper arch, creating more tongue space and avoiding the constricted airway problem.

Using a Quad Helix to Correct Crowding of the Teeth

Whenever crowding of the teeth occurs, there are a few different options to fix it.  One optionis to expand the arches to make more space. There are several methods of expanding the arches, but a quad helix is a tool that orthodontists sometimes use to assist in correcting crowding of the teeth.

Picture of a patient with crowding of their teeth

What Problems Can Result From a Quad Helix?

The quad helix in general has very few complications or problems associated with it. Like anything else involving braces and orthodontics, a quad helix expander does take some getting used to. Expect about a week of mild discomfort, where the appliance may feel bulky and uncomfortable in your mouth. Usually within a week or two every patient adapts and has no further problems or issues.

One of the most common problems caused by a quad helix is a sore or inflamed tongue. This usually happens because a patient involuntarily pushes against the appliance with their tongue while they are sleeping.  

But don’t worry – the soreness or inflammation is usually temporary and will go away after about a week. To help reduce inflammation, we recommend rinsing with warm salt water rinses 2 times a day. Rinsing will help to reduce inflammation and swelling.

warm salt water for braces pain
Warm salt water rinses help to reduce tongue soreness and inflammation

To make a warm saltwater rinse, simply get a cup of warm water, and add ½ teaspoon of salt to the water. Swish the salt water around in your mouth for about ten to fifteen seconds and then spit it out. Doing these rinses twice a day will help reduce inflammation by killing bacteria in your mouth. If you let the bacteria stay, your tongue will stay inflamed and sore longer and prevent your body from adapting and getting used to the quad helix.

Quad Helix Before and After

Check out the images below to see before and after pictures of patients who had a quad helix while in braces with Premier Orthodontics

patient treated with quad helix expander
patient treated with quad helix expander
patient treated with quad helix expander
patient treated with quad helix expander

How Much Does A Quad Helix Cost?

If you are getting a quad helix with your braces or Invisalign, the cost of this appliance is usually factored into the total cost of your treatment.  Click here to learn more about the cost of braces with Premier Orthodontics.

There are situations where a younger patient may get a quad helix without braces. In this case, the cost of the quad helix will vary depending on your insurance and the orthodontist you see.  At Premier Orthodontics we will usually charge $500 for treatment with a quad helix expander (this amount can be spread out with interest-free monthly payments). If the patient ends up getting braces at our office, this $500 will be applied as a credit towards the cost of their braces treatment.

Getting a Quad Helix with Braces in Phoenix, Chandler, Maricopa, and Casa Grande

Premier Orthodontics has 6 locations  providing braces and Invisalign in Phoenix, Chandler, Gilbert, Maricopa, Casa Grande, and Glendale as well as the surrounding areas. 

Schedule your free consultation for self ligating braces or read our comprehensive guide to the cost of braces . (We are very transparent about our process and our pricing, as you’ll see in this guide.)

Schedule a Free Braces Consultation For You or Your Child

Thinking about getting started with braces?

You can schedule a 100% free consultation and find out if clear braces the best choice for you.

Whether you’re thinking about braces for kidsbraces for an adult, or even Invisalign, we’ve got you covered!

Click below to learn how you can get started with braces for as low as $89/month. 

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