What Is A Habit Appliance And Why Does My Child Need One?

Child sleeping while sucking thumb

Pediatric and family dentists are frequently called on to address concerns parents have about their children’s sucking habits. Sucking is a normal behavior in children and can often be observed in babies still in the womb. While initially, it’s not harmful, when it persists after the earliest years of a child’s life, it can lead to serious problems that require orthodontic treatment to resolve. Malocclusion, or an improper bite, resulting from sucking habits can be prevented through parental and medical intervention. In the most difficult of cases, a habit-breaking appliance may be introduced.

An Introduction To Habit-Breaking Appliances

Developed to help young patients who are having an exceptionally difficult time overcoming their sucking habit, these appliances come in a variety of forms. These forms can be removable or fixed in place and are often used for a period of a year or more to help break the habit. The most commonly used forms are fixed, meaning they are set in place and cannot be removed without the assistance of a dentist. In some cases, they’ll be included as part of early orthodontic treatment, such as when a palatal expander is used to help the jaw develop normally.

The fixed form is constructed out of thin metal wire and is designed to help break the habit of tongue thrusting as well as sucking. It doesn’t cause any interference with eating and serves to prevent the tongue from coming into contact with their palate or the back of their front teeth. Deprived of this sensation, sucking and tongue-thrusting become much less satisfying. The presence of the cage also serves to help remind the child to stop engaging in this habit since they can feel it in their mouth.

What’s Involved With A Habit-Breaking Appliance

Receiving and removing a habit-breaking appliance is a pain-free process, though there will be an adjustment period after its put in place. The unfamiliar presence of the tongue cage will require some time to adjust to and may result in a mild degree of tongue soreness and a limited impact on their speech. Both of these changes will pass quickly. You can expect that for the first week or so following the installation of a habit-breaking appliance; your child may be crankier than normal or experience issues getting to sleep. This is a result of the removal of thumb-sucking or tongue-thrusting as a method of self-soothing, requiring them to develop new methods of coping and comforting themselves.

This article touches on the basics of habit-breaking appliances, addressing the most common concerns surrounding them. If you’d like to speak to Dr. April J Toyer and learn a little more about how these appliances can benefit your child in their battle against these habits, call us today! We’ll be pleased to arrange an appointment to help introduce you to these amazing devices. We’ll teach you how they can help you and your child avoid uncomfortable and expensive orthodontic treatments in the future. With the help of Lifetime Dental Care in Woodbridge, VA, and habit-breaking appliances, you can beat the sucking habit!

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