Habit-Breaking Appliances

The Internet, parenting books, your friends and, hey, even medical professionals all have a ton of different recommendations and timelines they swear by when it comes to giving up the bottle or pacifier, discouraging thumb sucking and pretty much everything else. It can be overwhelming as a parent. We sympathize and while certain habits like finger and thumb sucking, biting or sucking on the lower lip, tongue thrusting, teeth grinding and extended pacifier use can interfere with the development of the teeth, jaw and face, there’s plenty you can do about it. Our dentists specialize in the oral health and development of kids, so if a habit is mouth-related, we’ve got your back. We can provide guidance on when and how to try to stop harmful oral habits naturally and if that doesn’t work, we offer custom, habit-breaking appliances. These devices are either fixed or removable and they’re extremely effective in eliminating the unwanted behavior and keeping your child’s growth on track.

The Benefits of Habit-Breaking Appliances

The appliances can stop habits when all else fails by either physically blocking the action or serving as a reminder not to do it.
They’re excellent for preventing kids from subconsciously falling back into habits while sleeping, not paying attention or during times of stress.
Breaking harmful oral habits decreases the likelihood of problems with the development of the facial bones and the positioning of the teeth.

Making Habits Hit the Road

Ideally, if your child doesn’t stop on their own, you should try to encourage children to stop sucking on their thumb, fingers, lips and pacifier by age three at the latest. However, we’re well aware of just how stubborn toddlers can be. Plus, while you can take a pacifier away, you’re stuck with a thumb, so it’s quite a bit harder. If your kiddo continues the habit beyond age four or five and behavioral tactics and home remedies haven’t worked, a habit-breaking appliance could be the way to go. Once the permanent teeth erupt, these habits can cause serious misalignment of the teeth and jaws and interfere with the development of their facial structure, meaning they could potentially need extensive orthodontic treatment or even surgery down the road.

After examining and evaluating your child and chatting with you about their history, lifestyle and needs, we can decide on the best course of action. Luckily, we’re partnered with Innovative Orthodontic Centers (in fact, our offices are connected!) so, if necessary, we’ll give you a referral and they can create a custom-made habit-breaking appliance to fit your child’s mouth. It can be fixed or removable. Depending on the type of appliance, they either act as a barrier, completely preventing the action, or, in other cases, they don’t allow the thumb or the tongue to make contact behind the upper front teeth, which takes away the enjoyment and serves as a reminder for them.

Habit-breaking appliances aren’t painful but it is normal for kids to have some tongue soreness and speech difficulties at first. Once their tongue gets used to having to share space with the appliance, the discomfort will disappear and speech will return to normal. Sometimes, kids have trouble sleeping or get a little cranky for a few days following the start of treatment. This is because we’re taking away their go-to method of soothing themselves. We promise, it will pass and in the long term, their smile will thank you!

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It’s estimated that around 95% of babies engage in finger or thumb sucking at some point during their first year of life.
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A study found that only six to 10 percent of kids still use pacifiers at age four, but thumb sucking is harder to stop.
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When the permanent teeth start erupting around age six, certain habits can cause problems with tooth and skeletal development.

Find out how we can protect, enhance or restore your child’s smile.