Preparing for a Palate Expander

Of the three girls to have to get a palate expander/frankenstein device for 3-4 weeks (or months!  Mr.  RSG wasn’t quite paying attention to that little detail).   And I wasn’t even thinking it was a big deal until my friend said to me via email

Look into the effects of maxillary ‘widening’…find an orthodontist who collaborates with a cranio-sacral pro. If that’s even possible.

Do you wanna take a stab at who gets the ‘honor’?

Yes, that’s right, the 7 year old daughter who had selective mutism.

Why does my lovely child need a palate expander?

Because she has a crossbite on one of her adult teeth.  (Notwithstanding the crookedness of her lower jaw…apparently the adult tooth growing BEHIND her baby tooth is no big deal).

Can it be left alone?

I wish…it’s going to cost $3000 for it.

According to

A crossbite needs to be corrected as soon as it is diagnosed and at four years old is not too early.

A crossbite can cause a functional shift in the lower jaw posture, which can lead to asymmetrical growth of the lower jaw. This will further complicate orthodontic problems in the future.

Okay so an ounce of prevention now will be worth a pound of cure later.

What Are the Side Effects?

Side effects will vary from person to person, but potential side effects include:

* Headaches, especially on the days the expander key has been turned to further widen the jaw
* Lisping and other difficulty speaking after the expander is first put on, but patients usually adjust after a few days
* Extra saliva
* Tongue discomfort because it rubs against the metal of the expander
* Space between the front teeth
* Pressure

A friend of mine recommends cranio-sacral therapy…I think to help with the pain and pressure (because I’d heard it ends up opening the sutures of the head?) Of course, when I checked…there’s no one around who does that.


But also importantly…
Do They Affect Your Speech?

One of the big orthodontic expander questions involves whether or not they’ll affect the wearer’s speech. They will, but generally only for a short period. Once the patient has adjusted to the device, he should be able to speak normally for the duration of the jaw expansion.

This doesn’t sound so bad…UNTIL you read about other people’s experiences…

Christine M of The Thinking Mother gives us her impression of her son wearing the device:

I was shocked when I realized my son’s lovely voice was gone. Formerly my son had no speech impediments. With this expander in place, he has multiple, temporary “speech impediments”. His speech is terrible. He has a new lisp, and his speech is in general, garbled. Sometimes it is hard to hear what he is saying at all. It is actually so bad that I am a bit embarrassed for him as I see that other children and also adults do have a hard time understanding him.

I’ve taken steps to prepare middle daughter for the device, having conversations that her ability to eat and talk might be affected and that there might be some pain. I am a bit apprehensive…both for the pain and for the speech impediment that will ensue and the fact she’ll probably end up spitting on people when she talks.

It might set her back into not speaking. I even told her it might because she might get teased. She said, “oh, no, mommy, my friends won’t make fun of me”.

Yeah, that’s a good sign…that she’s confident. But it still doesn’t make me feel a whole lot better.

Yeah, I’ll be writing a note to the teacher, forewarning the difficulties and to please let me know if she gets embarrassed or teased or cries or simply gives up in shame and becomes mute again.

[Stop catastrophizing Casey, you know it doesn’t do any good]


In two weeks…I’ll be starting the complaints updates on this new trial adventure.

On a related note…I ought to change the name of this blog from Raising Smart Girls to The Adventures of the Sensitive Sisters…or something like that (have I mentioned that nary a day goes by when someone isn’t crying over here????   And in fact, the child of this post is melting down this very minute.  Why?  Because her younger sister gets to go to a birthday party tonight and she doesn’t.  Argh…I could use some craniosacral therapy myself).

This entry was posted in highly sensitive child, Palate Expander for child, selective mutism. Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Preparing for a Palate Expander

  1. Shawna says:

    Aw, poor thing! But as an adult who never had her crossbite corrected, I can say this seems for the best. I have regular intervals of jaw tension so severe I can’t talk for days and have unreal head, neck and shoulder pain regularly. My jaw was visibly crooked as a child, and now it is still a bit off, but the pain is the worst part.

    Best of luck!

  2. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Thank you so much for your thoughts about it, Shawna.

    That makes me a bit relieved, knowing that we aren’t subjecting my daughter to a medieval torture device for no good reason. I’m sorry that you have to suffer such pain now.

    And I’m going to be browsing around your blog, as I have noticed you are trying to get a book published. How awesome is that? That’s one of my dreams.

  3. Rick says:

    Wow, that sounds like something out of a Cronenberg film. So basically it’s a bone-stretching device… is a seven year-old’s palate “fused”, as the link in your post mentioned?

    Sorry, this is freaking me out a bit. I’m sure the dentist knows what he/she is talking about, but man, that sounds unpleasant. 🙂

  4. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Yes, Rick it IS basically a bone stretching device.

    This is freaking me out a bit too.

    I am not sure which link said it’s fused. I have been told that the bones aren’t truly fused (even when they are mostly so), but that doesn’t make it less painful.

    I’m going to contact an osteopath today to find out if he can help assess the situation (an osteopath would take a more holistic approach and help me out with getting her some craniosacral therapy).

  5. amy says:

    Hi. My 8 year old just had his palate expander put in and started a blog on it. He is completely honest and already I know its helping some of his friends not be so worried about it that are getting it put in soon too. Maybe it can help your daughter. My son is writing the whole thing himself so everything about it is in the words of an 8 year old boy. Here is the link:

    • Thanks Colin! I have a soon to be 8 yr old and we are going today to see if he is going to need a palate expander or not. I told him about it but didn’t really know what to expect myself, so this really helped. If he needs one I’ll have him read your story!!

  6. raisingsmartgirls says:


    Thanks so very much!!!!

    That’s so cool of your son to write about it for his friends and other kids to read. And it’s great to hear it from his point of view. Tell him he’s very brave and a very cool kid to be helping other kids understand what it’s like. I cringe a little just reading about it. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

    She goes on the 24th of February to get it put in.

    I will tell her about it. Please let your son know we are thankful for his writing about it. Good luck to him!


  7. Heather says:

    Have you tried massage therapists when looking for craniosacral therapy? It is something my mom was trained in when she went through massage school–(but she’s in New Mexico)

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Heather…I’m jealous your mom’s in New Mexico.

      I lived there for 6 years when I was a child (from 6-12). I hope to take my husband and the girls there some day to my childhood home.

      I didn’t even think of that. My sister was trained as a massage therapist. I’ll see if she has any training or knows anyone who did get trained in it while she was there. Thanks!

  8. Marlena says:

    i just got my exander today im now 20 years old and I hate it, it is the first day but i cant stand it. it hurts theres tons of spit in the tp of my mouth cant speak properly and very awkward feeling. don`t eat bread!

  9. raisingsmartgirls says:


    I’m sorry it’s crummy. I hear it gets better.

    My daughter got her palate expander on the 24th. She is on day two…still lots of spit…hard to talk…and yes, NO BREAD…or her favorite: GUM!!!

    She left lunch in the car, she was supposed to eat soup, yogurt and pudding. Instead, the lunch lady, one of my neighbor’s (who is really nice) helped her get something she could eat – she got cereal with milk and let it sit awhile, yogurt and orange juice…

    I’ll be making her a fruit smoothie she can drink down otherwise she’s going to be an absolute bear.

  10. Melissa says:

    Hi, I have a palate expander and I’ve had it less than a week.
    I noticed your daughter already got her expander in so could you let me know how she is doing?
    I am interested in knowing how long my speech impediment will last and how long until I feel more comfortable with talking and my levels of saliva, lol.
    I haven’t been in much pain, but I have definitely had discomfort and cleaning the palate expander while or after eating is terrible.
    Let me know! -Melissa

  11. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Melissa – she got her palate expander out about two weeks ago. Now she has braces.

    It was only about a week that it took for her speech and saliva levels to get back to (relative) normal. She still has some mild issues with speaking, but nothing to make it unintelligible. It was kind of cute to hear her talk.

    By now, you should see improvements in your speech. Your levels of saliva should have decreased too, as the mouth now has had time to adjust.

    I hope you are doing better.

    Best Wishes.


  12. i is awesome says:

    ive read that getting impressions(for the expander) made is horrible, how did she do?

  13. raisingsmartgirls says:

    She didn’t like the feeling of the stuff at the back of her throat. I think she said it either tasted gross or she was worried about swallowing some of it. But when the impression was done, it wasn’t too bad. I don’t think she cried or freaked out (as she sometimes does about difficult situations), so I think she survived it well enough. She still thinks that was the grossest part of it though.

  14. Cassie says:

    Hi, I am getting a palate expander next week because I have a crossbite and I already got the impression.It wasn’t bad but it tasted horrible and it got all over my mouth.Two kids I know had/have a palate expander and they said it didn’t hurt but they couldn’t talk well and it was very uncomfortable for about a week.By then you are getting used to it.All people have different results to getting the palate expander.I hope this was helpful.

  15. Maddieisawesome says:

    I am getting a palate expander because I have a crossbite and I already had an impression done.It was nothing but the stuff was all over my mouth.Two people I know have/had a palate expander and they said they had a hard time speaking and it was uncomfortable for about a week – two weeks.By then you are kind of used to it.Everyone has different results to getting a palate expander.I hope this helped.

  16. Suzanne Davis says:

    HELP!!! My 12 year old with a n under bite is scheduled to get one This month. DO I try to cram it in before middle school stars or give her 2 weeks to adjust then do it. She has anxiety issues and will be starting a new school( we aren’t sure where). It took me 3 months to see this Orthodontist for a consult.. The others said do nothing until she was 18 could have her jaw wired.. I am wake up in a panic wondering if I can endure the tears. She is very quiet, anxious. She will have one with Acrylic under the bands so her speech maybe more effected. Did it effect your child’s sleep? My daughter has had sleep issues…

    At 3 am I discovered her appliance appointment t to have it on was the first day of the school… we are applying to.

  17. alexis says:

    im 16 and ive had my expander for about 5 months now! it took a couple of months for me to get used to it. and i sounded so funny when i talked and there is still times where i have a lisp but i remember i used to cry because i couldnt eat at all! and i had this really bad experience with my peanut butter and jelly sandwhich! really bad idea. but now i have braces and my expander is still in to hold the spaces in..i had a really crossbite and now that my teeth are strting to straighten out fast my expander will be taken out in about a month. some experinece!!!

  18. Samantha says:

    I was doing some research on jaw disfunction’s and I landed on your page. I’m 19, and my jaws and teeth right now is so frustrating that I just want to bang my head on the wall sometimes. It affects a lot of the normal routines that I do including running, working out, chewing, and even while sleeping. Your daughter is lucky to have this prevented. I tried to convince my mother, but she doesn’t understand that “an ounce of prevention now will be worth a pound of cure later.” As a result, I have to deal with facial aches, jaw pain, head aches, ear pain along with not being able to speak properly. I feel that this is only getting severely worse, and I’m only 19! Already, I can’t finish a mile anymore because of my unaligned jaws. I used to be able to ignore it(during high school), but the pain I deal with now is intolerable. For now, I’m trying to find a way to make money so that I can afford a treatment to cure this before it gets too severe. Also, I forgot to mention the worst thing about having unaligned jaws is breathing. I honestly cannot breathe properly. It feels like I have a wall blocking part of my airway(probably because my jaws aren’t aligned correctly). Consequently, I get fatigued(and sometimes dizzy) very easily since I can’t inhale properly. I wished someone warned me or my parents about this before.

    • Suzanne Davis says:

      Samantha. my name is Suzanne and I have TMJ, I had my youngest son get an expander at 5 .. to avoid my problems , although his jaw is wide he still has a cross bite at16/..I am on my third child with a palette expander. And fear it won’t correct his cross bite only width. 😦 . My senior year of HS I began with pain ext after my braces treatment was completed. I was dx with TMJ disfunctionI when to specialists etc. At 45 I sleep in a night splint and do exercises that help relax the jaw muscles.. Is their a good dentist or orthodontist you trust you can talk to about TMJ to help with your symptoms. I am pain free must of the time( stress makes it worse)..

      • raisingsmartgirls says:

        Suzanne and Samantha –

        If you hadn’t heard of craniosacral therapy for TMJ and related problems. I encourage you both to investigate this gentle therapy for it.

        A dear friend of mine gave my husband a craniosacral treatment once, and my husband, who is studying to be a licensed massage therapist, liked it so much he is taking additional courses in craniosacral therapy so he can add that to his services.

        It is HIGHLY effective in treating TMJ.

        For some information, you can read this pdf

        Click to access TMJ%20&%20craniosacral%281%29.pdf

        Craniosacral Therapy is a safe effective treatment for TMJ. “It is a gentle, non-invasive,
        hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the body’s own natural healing
        mechanisms”, (Post, 2004). The focus of this work is of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord and has a direct effect on the central nervous system. Craniosacral Therapy provides fast relief for people who suffer with TMJ and patients notice a change in their everyday activities soon after receiving treatment (Levine, 1996). The therapy uses techniques to release and balance the joints of the mandible bilaterally and releases the tension from the muscles and tendons.

  19. Jodie says:

    Hi, my son s 10 and just got his expander in about a week ago. The first day was a little weird for him, he was lisping a little and he had lots of saliva, he told me he had nowhere for his tongue to sit! He has had no issues thus far with each turn, but we have to be choosy what hes eating as it means he has to spend a bit more time cleaning his teeth and expander more thoroughly! He was a little bit worried about what his friends would say, so we told him Not to tell them about it as you can’t see it from the outside of the teeth anyway! We have seen some minor expansion only after 5 turns which is great!

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Yeah, it must be kind of a weird feeling.

      My daughter was so EXCITED about her expander that she took in pictures to her class and her tooth mold to show her friends. Which is so ironic because this was the same daughter who was selectively mute and was anxious when anyone paid any attention to her at all when she was younger.

      She’s a funny kid.


  20. victoria says:

    iv currently got expander, its really simple and no hassle at all, when tightened it feels kinda nice as you know its working, its not painful whatsoever (i have low low pain threshold) iv found it very good, im on third week, dramatic changes , plenty space and its only been 3 weeks, the only bad thing is you nevr get used to speaking because before you know it your doing another turn and it gets wider,, and your tongue gets stuck in the gap thats being created. you do get pressure all the way up your nose and forehead, very strange i got a fright when i heard its actually expanding the structure, pretty amazing though, hope your kid gets on well xx

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Thank you, Victoria.

      My daughter is sad that some of her adult teeth are still taking too long to come in. The expander has been out for a long while and she has braces on some of her teeth (but not all of them because we are waiting for the teeth to come in to get the rest of them put on.

      Best wishes.

  21. Victoria says:

    I just got my palatal expander 4 days ago and it has been hurting when it is turned. The first 2-3 days it hurt, but not terrible. I got my bottom braces too so that is where more of the pain was. I still have crazy amounts of saliva but not as bad. My speech is still terrible, but its is getting better. Best luck to everyone!

  22. Tammy says:

    I am researching different options for my 9 year old and would love any input anyone can give. She has an overbite, a slight popping in her jaw every once in a while, the bottom jaw is crowded and doesn’t have room for one of her teeth to come in and when you look at her from the front you can tell that the bottom teeth have shifted to the left as some permanent teeth have come in. We had 3 different consults with ortho’s, it looks like my middle child would need some treatment as well so I am making sure we are comfortable with the Dr. since we will be there for years! Two of the ortho’s said that an expander was going to be needed. The first said top expander only. The second one said we would need one on the top and bottom as well as headgear with 18 months for phase 1.
    Our 3rd consult said that she was too young to do the expander yet we needed to see how her body grows first since they have up to age 12 to do the expander. He definitely said not to do the bottom expander as previously recommended because most of the time the lower jaw is not able to truly be widened. We could put braces on the top and bottom 4 teeth to start lining up the teeth that have pushed sideways and it could allow room for that other tooth to come in.
    Obviously I do not want to put her through anything she doesn’t need to have. For those of you who have had the bottom expander have you noticed a difference that helped? If you had it to do again would you do the expander on top as well? Thank you for all help and advice you can give!

  23. raisingsmartgirls says:

    My daughter only has had the top expander at age 8 and braces after that. But would I do it again? Yes. Her mouth was really not wide enough to fit her teeth. I’ve seen my mother in law and she has the same narrow upper palate, so I don’t believe my daughter’s would have expanded enough on its own. We chose to do it now, versus wait. Right now she has braces on the top teeth after the expander was taken out. Yesterday they just put in her bottom braces…and none too soon. One of her teeth was coming in at a weird angle.

    I’m kind of glad we went with only one ortho opinion. I’m thinking that would drive me nuts to have to have three differing opinions.

    She’s had no complications from the palate expander. And…well…aesthetically speaking, her upper teeth look better already.

    I think the only reason to do anything now, versus later, is to avoid a LOT more dental work later. At least, that’s what they told us.

    I can say this…for sure: My daughter is very very sensitive. If at all she encountered a bad experience with her dental work, she would NOT hesitate to let me know. So far, everything has been very peaceful and she looks forward to going to the orthodontist. They delayed putting on her bottom braces for the past two visits…and she was actually disappointed. But they FINALLY did yesterday, and she was very happy.

    I don’t know if this helps…but hopefully someone else can.

    • Tammy says:

      Thank you that does help. I think I have to agree with you. I was not near as confused or worried until after getting multiple opinions. I appreciate the info. I am not as hesitant on the top as I am for the bottom. Everything I have found online matches what the other ortho said they don’t do expanders for the bottom. I have a call into them to discuss the treatment again and then I am going to talk to others that go to that same ortho. Thank you again for your response! I needed to hear from other moms that have went through this with their kids.

  24. Suzanne says:

    I have had all three children’s teeth expanded, my oldest (now 16) had it at 5, my daughter(at 12 ) our youngest son at 10( teeth age of 8) currently in treatment.. We and them expanded by 3 different people using 3 different methods. The options available depends on age and Dr. preference.. Rapid palate expandars are your only option after 12. They involve turning a key.. expansion is done in around a month. Under 12 other options are available that are more gradual are activated by the orthodontist and take several months, some orthodontists don’t like to do these methods.. We have been to 4 ortho’s for consult, and currently have 3 children under the care of 2 different orthodontists. It is stressful.. (2 of my children have an under-bite tendency). I have founds asking around to find someone who is experience and highly recommended is helpful. Especially in in difficult cases.

    • Tammy says:

      Thank you so much Suzanne. I am very stressed right now and just don’t want to put through pain if it’s not needed. I will definitely go the referral route.

      • Suzanne says:

        Having a background in healthcare( and TMJ problems after braces) understanding everything is important to me ( or my stress level is high) Since bottom expanders are uncommon you job is trickier than most. 2 of my kids have tendencies for under bites, surgery is the main treatment$20-$40 thousand/ mostly not covered by insurance, I have 2 kids with similar problems currently being treated by different Ortho. I feel better knowing they have had many cases like mine, and tend to like Orthodonist who are very conservative and cautious… And can handle a barrage of questions and concerns…

  25. ctmom says:

    my daughter got her expander on yesterday. Today when I did the initial turn she just started to cry because it hurt so much. I hated being the person do inflict that pain on my child. My question is this, our Orthodontist wants us to do 2 turns a day, is it best to do them together or 1 in the morning and 1 at night? If anyone has any input I’d really appreciate it.

    • I did one in the morning and one at night for the first few days. Eventually they stopped hurting and we just did both in the morning. Follow her lead for sure. I just couldn’t do the two at once when it hurt so bad. As far as eating goes, we did soft foods while she was sore. Spaghettios, rice, that kind of thing. Everything gets stuck up there, so that’s gross, but there’s not much you can do about that.

    • Jodie says:

      Wow, 2 turns? We only had to do 1 turn per day, but in the beginning we were only turning it once every couple of days until my son was used to the appliance! He is ten so he was quite cooperative. I found pain relief effective if they were uncomfortable as well! They soon get used it! Good luck!

    • Nicole says:

      I’m thinking two turns a day is a bit much also, my 8 yr old daughter only needs hers turned once every other day. I would double check with your ortho.
      Hope that helps.

  26. ctmom says:

    also any tricks to eating…

  27. Suzanne says:

    We used pediasure, pudding yogurt, soup. We had to turn it once a day. Call your orthodontist about the number and when….

  28. Jodie says:

    Hi, I just wondered if anyone that has an expander, if they have suffered with discomfort where the bracket sits on the inner palate? My son has finished the turning, now we have to leave it in for another 4-5 months, but he has swelling in the palate where the wire is sitting! Is this normal? I was worried because it seems to be digging in to his palate quite firmly? Appreciate the feedback!

  29. Michelle says:

    I appreciate your blog……my 7 year old gets one of these tomorrow. So how dd your daughter manage for the long haul?

  30. June says:

    Hello All.
    I was very glad to find this blog. I am not usually into this stuff…however, my 8 1/2 year old son just got his 2nd expander put in the day before Thanksgiving. The first turned out to be faulty and was unwinding as we went for the 1st 2 weeks. We do 2 turns a day. 1 in the morning, 1 in the evening. He uses a waterpick to help keep the appliance clean. It works well! We use Tylenol for the pain. I don’t turn the key because when I was 9 in the 4th grade back in the 70’s I had a palatte splitter (that is what they called it and that is what it does). Back then my mother had to turn it 3 times each morning before I left for school. I remember hearing the tearing in my head and I remember lots of pain. After that I had braces (the kind where the bands were on EVERY single tooth). I avoided putting my son through this for the past year. All someone had to say was the word braces and I would burst into tears. Mine were torture back then! I also ended up with TMJ and my jaw locked at 18 for a few months. Ultra sound was used to loosen it to avoid surgery. I always told myself I would NEVER put any of my children through this and here I am reliving it with my son. The reason is simple…it is better to do it now before he has all his adult teeth and before the palette is completely done growing. That is probably what sold me on going ahead and doing this…my parents were told to wait until I had my adult teeth and I had finished growing. Technology has changed. I realize this. It is very hard to go through this again with my child! Tonight he was really hurting and so I reiked his mouth. We also used some cold packs on his cheeks and he said it helped. He is not a whimp (low pain tolerance) like his mom, so I know he is really hurting if he is asking for help! I will also be checking out the 8 yr old boy’s blog and getting my son to read it. Maybe that will help him feel less alone. He does not get teased at all. He is still excited to go to the ortho. Impressions are not his favorite since they make him gag…the last gal had him tip his head forward, breathe in through his nose and out through his mouth (to help it dry faster) and the Dr had him hold his leg up…all that helped to keep him distracted…he still dislikes that part the most though.
    Good luck to all of you and us too!

  31. Kaitlyn says:

    I have a palate expanter in and i have to click it once a days. Mine DOESN’T HURT. At all. Like you feel pressure your sinus by in minutes it’s gone. I have a lisp. It’s quite annoying I do say. But I tell you it’s not easy to eat and swallow. Tell her not to worry.

  32. Pam says:

    My ten year-old daughter is now working on her third month of having a slimline expander. The first two days were challenging, but she adapted quickly, speech improved rapidly and turning the appliance caused her no discomfort at all. She can now eat practically any food just as she did before it was placed and breathing through the nose has gotten much easier for her. Kids do much better with this than we adults ever could.

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