Just for Kids: 3 Things To Expect if You’re Getting a Palate Expander

Know what a palate expander does

So, you just left the dentist, and you were told that you need a palate expander. We bet you have so many questions. But, you should know that a palate expander is nothing to worry about. Many kids, just like you, have a palate expander, or have had one in the past, and now have a totally awesome smile. You, too, will love your new healthy smile. In the meantime, let’s answer some of those questions that you might have. 

Do you have questions about palate expanders? Don’t worry, we’ve got the answers!

Before we answer all of your great questions, let’s make sure you know what your palate is. And, what is this thing the dentist is recommending, anyway? Well, your palate is the roof of your mouth; it’s that space that you can push your tongue into to try to stop a brain freeze or when you are just acting silly. The front portion of your palate is hard and bony, and the back portion is soft and made of muscle.

A palate expander is a small device that your dentist, pediatric dentist, or orthodontist puts in your mouth to make your upper jaw a bit bigger. Once your jaw is bigger, it will make it easier for you to take care of your teeth and gums. And, if you need braces when you are older, it will make it easier for your braces to do their job. Your dentist will have you wear the expander for a few weeks or up to a year, depending on how much help your jaw needs.

You’re probably wondering, too, if it will hurt to get an expander. Getting an expander shouldn’t hurt; however, it might be slightly uncomfortable as you get used to it. We recommend that your mom or dad give you some Tylenol or Advil before your appointment to get your expander and maybe for the next day or two while you get used to it. Think of the expander as what it feels like to build new muscles. You might be a bit sore, but it goes away pretty quickly, and you will feel so much better. The good news is that you will get used to your expander within just a few days.

Now that you know what your palate is and how an expander can help, let’s answer your other questions.

1. Do I have to clean my expander?

You will need to clean your expander three times a day. The plaque in your mouth loves to stick to the plastic and metal of your expander, but thankfully, cleaning it is easy. All you have to do is brush around the expander’s bands, plastic, and support arms. We’ll give you a special kind of brush called a proxabrush that will make it easy for you to get into the small narrow areas. Keeping your expander clean will help make your mouth more comfortable.

2. Can I still eat candy?

We do have a little bit of bad news for you. While you have your expander, you will need to avoid sticky foods as well as hard and chewy foods. This means you need to stay away from the following types of goodies:

  • Hard foods like popcorn, peanuts, potato chips, candied apples, and corn on the cob.
  • Sticky foods like chewing gum, gummy bears, fruit Roll Ups, caramels, taffy, Skittles, Milk Duds, and Jolly Ranchers.
  • Soda and sports drinks that contain high amounts of sugar.

So, think of this as a good time to enjoy some soft snacks, such as pudding, smoothies, mashed potatoes, yogurt, and ice cream. 

3. Do I have to get braces?

Not all kids who get an expander will need to get braces. Sometimes, an expander is needed just to help make your mouth bigger for your adult teeth to come in. But, often a kids’ dentist might recommend that kids get an expander before braces. An expander is intended to make space for your teeth to come in straight and to straighten out your other teeth once there is more room in your mouth. Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist if you will need braces. They will tell you what they think is best for your mouth to make sure you have a happy and healthy smile.

Dr. Mo and the Must Love Kids Pediatric Dentistry team can answer any questions you have about palate expanders.

It’s totally normal to have questions about palate expanders. At your appointment with Dr. Mo, we’ll tell you everything you need to know and answer any other questions you might have. So don’t be afraid to speak up and ask away! We love working with kids, and our job is to ensure that your experience with your palate expander is a good one so that you can tell all your friends about it.