Though many parents think of “teenagers” when presented with the term “dental appliances,” the use of such appliances in young children is very common. Some dental appliances may be recommended for preventative purposes, while others may be recommended for treatment purposes.
It can be extremely difficult to encourage young children to wear removable dental appliances regularly, but there is some good news. Pediatric dental appliances can prevent injury to the teeth and may also reduce (or even eliminate) the need for extensive treatment later.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and American Dental Association (ADA) recommend that children wear mouth guards when engaging in any potentially injurious activity, including sporting and recreational endeavors.
The pediatric dentist can craft a customized mouth guard for the child, or a thermoplastic “boil-and-bite” mouth guard can be purchased at a sporting goods store. Similar mouth guards are used for children who “brux” or grind their teeth at night.
Sometimes, primary (baby) teeth are lost prematurely due to trauma or decay. Adjacent teeth tend to shift to fill the space, causing spacing and alignment problems for permanent (adult) teeth. Space maintainers or “spacers” are inserted as placeholders until the permanent teeth are ready to erupt. There are two main types of space maintainer:
Thumb Sucking Appliances
The majority of children naturally outgrow their thumb-sucking habit. However, children who continue to thumb suck after the age of five or six (especially vigorously) risk oral complications. These complications include: narrowed arches, impacted teeth, and misaligned teeth. The “palatal crib” appliance usually stops thumb sucking immediately.
The “crib” is crafted and affixed to the teeth by the pediatric dentist, almost like a barely visible set of dental braces. Preventing the thumb from reaching the roof of the mouth reduces gratification – and breaks the habit very quickly. Removable variations of the “crib” are also available, and can be used depending on the age of the child and his or her willingness to cooperate.