Are There Any Alternatives to the Palate Expander?

Updated on July 09, 2019
A.J. asks from Broomfield, CO
13 answers

My daughter hates her expander, and she wants it out, I am at my wits end, and I don't know what to do. Are there any alternatives? Her ortho office is not open until Monday the week after next.
A. J.

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answers from Springfield on

She will get used to it. Keep telling her that she will get used to it, because she will.

Please do not give her any false hope that you might have this removed. She's uncomfortable and you just want to help your baby, but the best thing you can do for her is to keep the expander in place.

If she complained the first day of kindergarten that she was uncomfortable and didn't know the other kids and wanted to quit school, you wouldn't let her do that, would you? You wouldn't just say, "Well, we gave this 'school' thing a try and it didn't work. She'll just never go to school." Of course not. You are the parent, and you are going to do what's best for her. The expander IS what's best for her.

She will be fine. Keep reminding her of that. She will get used to the expander, and she will be fine.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hopefully by the time the ortho office reopens, she will be used to it. Any kind of ortho care involves some pain. I think your daughter is pretty young, so her coping abilities are limited, but you can help her best by sympathizing with the pain ("I know and I'm sorry it hurts"), explaining the need ("it's going to help your teeth be healthy and look good"), and helping her develop some coping strategies ("I know you're going to feel better soon. For now, what would you like to try to feel better? Maybe a movie? Ice cream?). Your attitude should be one of helpfulness and hopefulness that she will get through it and it will be good for her. Don't let her think removing it is an option. If she continues to try to pressure you, set some limits on what you are willing to listen to, like allow her 30 minutes a day to complain, and then she has to stop.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Not any good options.
I had my braces before there were palate expanders.
Long story short: I had 7 YEARS of braces and 8 permanent teeth removed to make room for everything to fit.
It was long, painful and bloody and I thought I would never get all the metal out of my mouth.
It was the summer before senior year that they finally came out.
The insides of my cheeks still has scars from it all and I'm 57 now.

Our son had the expanders.
He wore them for 6 months and then had 2 years of braces and was finished before 6th grade was over.

His experience was so very easy compared to mine. and his teeth are beautiful.

Your daughter only thinks the expanders are horrible because she doesn't know how much worse it could be - she has no basis for comparison.

This is where being the parent and making the tough decisions comes in.
If I were you I'd tell her you understand she feels uncomfortable but this is the fastest easiest way to get this done, the expanders stay in - and - getting her teeth right now means she'll have them for the rest of her life and hopefully she lives to be 100.
While she's not liking it now - someday she will thank you for it.
She doesn't have a say in this.
Hang in there and stay the course!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I'm sure there is a 24 hour number for you to call, OR, when my dentist or ortho was out of town they always had another office covering for them.
How long has your daughter had this? It takes about a week to get used to, and as the parent you need to remind your child that medical care is not really her decision.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Awww poor kid. There really isn't an option. Trust that she will get used to it, as she definitely will. It might take a week or two. As others have mentioned, maybe try some incentives to boost her spirits and confidence. It feels weird and bulky at first but really, it is relatively small and you get used to it. My youngest son had an expander a few years ago and it took a few days for him to adapt to it. It did what it was supposed to do and so far, we haven't yet needed further treatment. Maybe ask around and connect your daughter with a peer who has had this - it's pretty common now so if none of her friends have had it, if you have a local Facebook page for parents, I bet this is the kind of thing you could throw out there and get some responses from parents of her peers who might be happy to talk to her. Sometimes hearing success from another kid helps.

I had an expander when I was in high school, which was too late. It didn't correct things enough, so I needed a major surgery to reduce my bottom jaw, which involved cutting through the bone on both sides to remove a few millimeters of bone, having plates screwed in to hold the cut piece onto the rest of my jaw, and getting my entire jaw wired shut for weeks and weeks for all of that to heal. That's one alternative to doing an expansion at a younger age and obviously, isn't a very desirable option for anyone. It's many times more expensive, very risky (I was in the ICU because the jaw is so close to your brain and airway), a difficult surgery, very painful, and having your jaw wired shut is miserable. So have her stick with this and avoid my fate :-)

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Our son had the expander, and it took him probably a couple weeks to get used to it. He needed that as well as braces in 'Phase 2'; his teeth look really good now, and we are confident that any possible medical concerns have been averted. As others said, if there was a good alternative, your orthodontist probably would have offered you that option. If you (and she) want her bite and jaw to be healthy long-term, she is going to need to power through this adjustment. Your best bet psychologically is probably to offer sympathy and a couple treat experiences to distract her--do NOT make removing the expander early an option. It's probably for the best that the office isn't open for another week, so she will have time to get used to it. About the food issue, is she the type of kid who might enjoy researching possible foods or recipes online she can make which are expander-friendly? I've noticed that our daughter will be more enthusiastic about food which she helped choose. Good luck!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

My daughter was older when she got hers. She also had a tooth in the upper palate of her mouth that required two surgeries and a chain attached to the expander.

I know it’s difficult but in 2 weeks or less you will have a new normal. She will probably not have to have it in as long as she would later.

She can get through this with your help. Try to stay strong and confident.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I'd like to think that any alternatives would have been presented and discussed by the orthodontist.

I also think that, as tough as it is, kids sometimes have to do the right thing and tough it out for a few days to get used to things. If it's too wide, perhaps it can be narrowed a bit to start with, but of course you can't do that until the office opens. If she's in a lot of pain, then I'd call the ortho's emergency line. Did the ortho discuss discomfort and the use of tylenol or other pain reliever? What about sucking on ice chips to reduce inflammation?

But if she's just annoyed, and if her answer to other things tends to me "I don't like this and I want something different, then I'd consider some combination of "Buck up, honey, it will be okay in a few days" and "How about a special treat like a movie?" You've mentioned she is a very picky eater, and I think my answer would depend on whether this is her personality type and something you want to break her of (because we can't always have everything so perfect and trouble-free), vs. true misery which should of course be addressed. How is she with other medical and dental issues (shots, fillings, etc.)? Is she one who never complains, and so this is something out of the ordinary for her to be so upset?

By the time you get in there on Monday to have it removed, it will probably feel much better. And then what will you do? Start over? If she's facing a lifetime of dental issues by not addressing this now, you're not helping her by getting her out of early annoyance now.

You know your kid and we don't, so I'm just posing questions I think you might ask yourself and your orthodontist.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My sister's kids had them to correct their bite and jaw first from what I remember ... whereas my son has braces. His teeth are simply crowded (crooked) in a couple of spots in the front - so it's more cosmetic, compared to a problem with how his mouth/bite sits. That can cause pain and other issues over time if not corrected, whereas my son could easily live with his crooked teeth (he just doesn't like how his smile looks).

So braces in your daughter's case would not correct the problem - my understanding. I'm not an expert, but that's what I remember my sister telling me years ago.

My niece had a little screw that she adjusted to expand the top teeth. She was very upset about it all to begin with (like your daughter) and there was some drama (we weren't even allowed to look at her, for fear of setting her off) .. but she got over it. My sister simply focussed on it in kind of a medical way - if they didn't get it done, she'd have problems later on with her jaw/teeth.

Does that help? I don't think you'd get the results you're looking for.

Good luck :) It does get better over time. My niece was a tween from what I remember and got used to it relatively quickly. Just some upset to begin with, which .. is probably fairly common. Just reassure her it was the right decision, and only one. My niece has beautiful teeth now and does not regret it of course.

ETA: I know we generally don't click on links from external sites so you can feel free to Google search this yourself, but SIMS Orthodontics . com has a video from a gal who explains what it all feels like, what to expect ... etc. and it's helpful. There's a Youtube video of it too your daughter might find helpful to watch - just makes it a bit less scary :) (on this page, scroll down to where it says video).

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

One of my kids had a palate expander, and it's been a while so I don't recall how he adjusted to it. But since your daughter just got it, it will probably take a while for her to adjust and forget it's there, which I'm assuming will happen. This is where I'm a big believer in "bribery" in parenting. It usually worked for my kids. Is there something -- money, a toy, an experience -- if she can just give this expander a try for another week or two? Maybe you give her something every day for a while.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i don't know of any alternatives. the expanders themselves are alternatives to what we had for years- braces that didn't really do the trick because the teeth themselves weren't the problem.

if there were viable alternatives i would hope your ortho would already have discussed them with you.

i had railroad track braces that hurt like hell and i hated them. if i'd had the option, i'd have ditched them and to hell with my bugs bunny front teeth resting on my lower lip overbite.

sometimes parents have to reinforce unpopular decisions and brace themselves for a painful (in all ways) adjustment period. palate expanders are usually out within 6 months. that, of course, seems an eternity to her. you know it's not. and in two weeks she'll be mostly used to it.

hold firm, ride the wave. plan something fun to reward everyone for surviving the experience.

but you being buffeted about by her unhappiness won't help anything.


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answers from Miami on

No. There are also no alternatives for braces and correcting crooked teeth, unfortunately. Like B, I dealt with braces with rubber bands, which were painful, lots of pulled teeth, wires poking through with cheek scarring, etc. At least I didn't have to have the jaw surgery that J B. mentioned (though the orthodontist did mention that possibility and I was terrified!). The first few days of having braces or a retainer (or in my daughter's case, both, at the same time), are a pain, you eventually get used to it. She will too. Take her out for ice cream as a reward for being brave, or get her a bobba tea (that seems to be the new treat all kids are into these days).

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

You don't say how old she DD had one when she wa six and I told her it would take a few weeks to get used to it. Otherwise when she was older they would have to break her jaw to fix her incredibly crooked face and jaw. (She had three rows of teeth in her upper mouth like a shark her palate was so narrow! The xray was horrible! )

Anyways, she was done with the widening inless than a month and then wore the piece glued unable to turn for another 9 months or so. During that time she had a few brackets and rubber band type braces to get the teeth in line.

She is 12 now and her teeth look amazing, perfect and straight. Oh the braces were off by the time she was 7 1/2 to 8 and she was done.

Good work Mama keep it up...fixing a narrow palate will help her have confidence and fewer issues later on.

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