The use of appliances in pediatric dentistry has increased significantly over the past few years. This is due to the fact that many children are growing up with orthodontic concerns, and many oral health professionals are making proactive discoveries to prevent or lessen the severity of these conditions. There are many different types of appliances that can be used in pediatric dentistry, and the type that is used will depend on the specific problem that the child is experiencing.
Overall, there are two main reasons why dental appliances are used in our Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY office: to prevent the progression of malocclusion (bad bite) and to break bad habits. To learn more about these appliances and their purpose, please read below!
A space maintainer is an appliance that is used to preserve the space of a missing tooth. When children are in the process of losing their primary teeth and growing their permanent set, the premature loss of a primary tooth can cause serious problems. With the space left open, surrounding teeth may begin to drift into that opening—leaving little or no room for the permanent tooth to come in. This can lead to crowding, impaction, and teeth that erupt in the wrong position. If this occurs, the child may need braces or other more serious dental work when they get older.
To prevent this from happening, we can place a space maintainer in the mouth. This appliance will essentially “hold the space” until the permanent tooth erupts.
Bad habits, such as thumb sucking, can cause serious problems for the developing dental arches. While thumb-sucking is a normal, comforting habit for children up to the age of four or five, when these habits progress past this age, they can cause the teeth to shift out of alignment, causing an overbite, open bite, or other dental concerns. If your child is still sucking their thumb beyond the age of five, we may recommend a habit-breaking appliance. This type of appliance will help to break the habit by making it uncomfortable for the child to suck their thumb. In most cases, the appliance is only needed for a short period of time—usually six months.
The appliance consists of a metal bar that is placed across the roof of the mouth and attached to a band that goes around the back molars. The bar prevents the child from being able to suck their thumb, and the band ensures that the appliance stays in place. The bar works to subconsciously break the habit by preventing the thumb from being placed comfortably in the mouth.
Before fabricating a habit-breaking appliance for your child, we may recommend a few other options, such as positive reinforcement or behavior modification. These include the following ideas:
- Rewarding your child for not sucking their thumb
- Placing a bitter-tasting substance on the thumb
- Putting a glove or mitten on the hand at night
- Providing toys or activities that keep their hands busy
While these methods may work for some children, others may need a more physical reminder not to suck their thumb. In these cases, a habit-breaking appliance may be the best option.
If you have any questions about this appliance or any other type of dental appliance, please do not hesitate to contact our Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY office. We would be more than happy to help you!