-I am a speech language pathologist! Mouths are like totally my domain, right?
-I have had clients get expanders and braces.
-I had braces growing up...been there, done that!
Oh boy, I was SO WRONG! The first two days were incredibly difficult for my son, and by extension, me. So together we (my son and I) decided to make a list of things we wish we had known going into this whole new world.
1) Best foods for the first two days: hard meltables (grahm crackers, animal crackers, Ritz crackers, etc.) These types of foods are hard enough that you have to chew them, which is good for practice and according to my orthodontist decreases mouth pain. BUT they also melt if they get stuck in your mouth, like under the horrible expander bar. A banana is soft but once its squishiness is stuck in all the new metal grooves in your mouth it doesn't go away...it just gags you. Other good choices: smooth things you don't have to chew (apple sauce) and cold things (frozen yogurt).
2) Small bites are a big deal: cut things up really small for your child, especially in the beginning. This was super important for my son.
3) Meals take a long time: eating is going to be slow going for at least the first week. My biggest suggestion, call your school and ask them to let your kid be first in the lunch line for his class for the first few days. This super helped my boy.
4) Use sips of water to rinse: eating at first is super messy! I found that having water available for my son to use to rinse his mouth after every couple bites was a must. Another good strategy we tried to help get food out of his braces/expander was to send a little travel toothbrush with him to school for after luch.
5) Swallow that spit: for the first two weeks my son had a lot of extra saliva to deal with. His mouth was working overtime which led to some crazy drooling. I found that if I cued my son to swallow his spit his speech cleared up and he didn't drool on his homework. All good things. The spit is out of this world! Good news, it does slow down with time.
6) Practice oral reading: the first week or so really push oral reading at home. This gives your kid the chance to refine his speech sounds. His tongue has to change the way it moves now when he goes to make /s/, /z/, "sh", /r/, /l/. His lips move differently to say /p/, /m/, /b/. Things will be pretty sketchy for a while. The more your child can hear his own voice in a safe environment the better he will get at producing his sounds clearly once more. If you want to know more check out: The Auditory Feedback Loop.
7) Really push oral hygiene: my son had been brushing and flossing his own teeth religiously before getting his braces and expander. After getting his gear I let him continue to brush his teeth and I took over flossing, because it is super tricky. BUT two weeks in he had major plaque issues because his brushing technique was not cutting it. I suggest for the first few days you really watch his brushing AND help with flossing. Also I wish I had actually tried flossing his teeth in the orthodontist's office the day he got his braces instead of just watching. It is way harder than it looks, especially the back teeth. Get all the tips you can before trying it on your own at home!
Hopefully reading through some of our tips will help make the first few weeks of your child's (or your own) orthodontia experience a little more manageable!