What to Expect with Your Child’s Palate Expander

What to expect with your child's palate expander

The purpose of this article is to share tips and strategies from a parent, and a speech-language pathologist about what to expect when your child gets a palate expander. I will share ideas on foods to avoid, foods to eat, useful tools, and a quick strategy for helping with any sound distortions from the palate expander. Hopefully these tips and strategies will help make your child’s first couple of weeks with an expander as smooth as possible.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not meant to be used to give medical advice. I am a father of a child who recently had an expander placed, and I am also a speech-language pathologist.

This post may include affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read the full disclosure here. 

The first day: Having something to help with reduce the pain with the spacers, and with the expander, like a child’s ibuprofen may be helpful if the child is very uncomfortable. Our doctor “prescribed” ice cream for the first night; which my daughter thought was a fantastic recommendation. The ice cream (or special cold treat) can help alleviate the pain in the mouth, and can take the child’s mind off any worry about having an appliance placed.

Foods To Stay Away From: The three categories of “forbidden” foods are; very crunchy (very hard), extra chewy, or gooey (sticky).

This is one of the biggest adaptations to a palatal expander in my mind. If one of these foods is a highly preferred snack or treat, learning to stay away from them may be a big adjustment at first. Your child will be asked to stay away from; gum, gummy bears, super chewy candies, sticky caramel, very crunchy items like chewing ice, or hard candies, to name a few.

Easy First Foods: Starting with soft “mashable” foods and moving to water soluble crunchy foods is a great way to help them practice how to transport and swallow foods with their new appliance. Think about foods that you could mashup easily or breakdown with a few easy chews and swallow.

Soft foods like; pastina, mac n cheese, mashed potatoes, avocados, cubed cooked veggies are a great option in the beginning.

Once your child gets the hang of transporting and swallowing the super soft foods, try crunchy foods that are “meltable”. You can practice with foods that are more water soluble, and will melt, but are still crunchy. Some of these foods include; graham crackers, Ritz crackers, veggie straws, pretzel sticks, Pirates Booty, or veggie chips.

Modifications: At first modifications of the actual foods may help. Cutting the food into small bite sized pieces will allow for your child to easily transport and manipulate the food. You can have the child eat these foods with a fork and easily place them on their molars where they will chew.

Shape of the food: With stick shaped snacks, your child can more easily place the food on the side of their mouth and bite. They can practice getting a couple of good chews in without having the think about the food getting stuck in their expander right away.

Timing: Encourage your child to eat slower than normal. Slowing down will help create awareness of where the food is in their mouth, and will help the child better manipulate the food as they eat.

Great Alternative: Popcorn is a fan-favorite for many children. However the hull or the inside of the popcorn can easily get stuck in the expander. Instead, try hulless popcorn as an alternative to regular popcorn.


Water Pik: You will most likely be given a small manual waterpik tool to help push any stuck food out of the appliance. Having a real, portable waterpik like this one is really helpful.

Curved Soft Tooth Picks

This tooth pick was recommended to us by our close friends and has been the most useful tool in getting food unstuck. It’s curved, and bends in order to pick out food that gets stuck in the expander.

Will Your Child Sound Different?:

Our doctor noted that most children sound a little different for the first couple of days with their new appliance. We scheduled K’s expander to be placed while considering any big events (the first day of school) in mind.

As you’d expect, any sounds where the tongue needs to make contact with the roof of the mouth, or behind the front teeth, may be a little distorted. You can wait a couple of days and see how your child responds. If they are struggling, or you notice a big change in how they sound, try practicing the sounds that have become hard for them at the sound level. Take the tricky sound out of the word, and practice the pure form of that sound.

For my daughter, “sh”, “ch”, “s”, and the long “e” were tricky for her. She was able to produce all of these sounds accurately before the expander was placed. We practiced “shh-shh-shh”, “ch-ch-ch”, “ss-ss-ss”, “ee-ee-ee”. While she practiced, she paid attention to how the sound “sounded” to her, and where the new placement of her tongue was while making it. With a little practice, and making a silly game out of it, she picked back up on how to produce the sound accurately.

I hope this helps! Good luck on your adventure into the world of getting a palatal expander.

This post may include affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read the full disclosure here. 

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About the Author


Drake Hastings is a speech-language pathologist who specializes in speech, oral motor, and feeding therapy for kids. Drake has a passion for working with children and families while helping children achieve goals using a fun and motivating approach to learning.

Drake’s main areas of focus within the practice are feeding therapy, and speech (sound production) therapy. Drake has experience working with children who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Apraxia of Speech, Dysarthria, Down Syndrome, and rare genetic disorders. Drake has experience working and collaborating with a wide variety of families and therapeutic team members while treating children of all ages.