Palate expanders are an important step in your child’s orthodontic treatment. By expanding the upper jaw, we can create more room for your child’s adult teeth to erupt, which can shorten their time in braces and eliminate the need for teeth extractions in the future. The result is a beautiful, wide smile, improved breathing, and a more balanced facial appearance.
What Is a Palate Expander?
A palate expander is an orthodontic appliance that places constant gentle pressure on both sides of the upper jaw, slowly expanding them. This works because in children, the two sides of the jaw haven’t yet fused, so we can still influence its development and growth. Once the jaw has fused, it’s much harder to change its shape.
A palate expander has two parts that are attached to the molars on each side of the upper arch. There is a screw that joins the two parts; when this screw is turned with a key, it pushes apart both sides of the palate expander, placing gentle pressure on the two sides of the jaw in the process.
Eating With a Palate Expander
Palate expanders can impact your child’s ability to eat as they normally would, but usually after a short amount of time, they’ll get used to eating with it. That said, there are some foods that will remain off-limits throughout their time wearing a palate expander. Here are some tips on how to eat with a palate expander in place:
Cut Food into Small Pieces
We recommend that you cut your child’s food into small, manageable pieces that don’t require biting and that can be easily swallowed while your child is still learning how to chew and swallow while wearing a palate expander. It’s common for kids to choke or gag when they first get a palate expander, but cutting food into very small pieces will help, as will sips of water to wash things down.
Start With Soft Foods
The first few days after getting a palate expander, your child may benefit from eating a soft foods diet. Give them smoothies, pureed soups, mashed potatoes, yogurt, and, yes, even ice cream and pudding! You can make getting their palate expander fun by letting them pick out all the soft foods they want to eat in those initial days after having it put in.
Avoid Sticky, Hard, and Chewy Foods
For the duration of your child’s treatment with a palate expander, they should avoid foods that have the potential to break the appliance—sticky foods like caramels, hard foods like hard candy or almonds, and crunchy foods like popcorn. Even chewy foods like bagels or crusty sourdough bread can cause damage to a palate expander.
Spend Extra Time on Oral Hygiene
Your child’s oral hygiene habits are more important than ever with a palate expander! Food that gets stuck between the appliance and their teeth is a breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to tooth decay. Many parents find that a water flosser (like a Waterpik) helps them keep their child’s palate expander clean.