Pediatric Dental Appliances

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Pediatric Dental Appliances 

Although many parents think of “teenagers” when they hear the words “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 get young children to wear removable dental appliances regularly, however they can prevent injury to the teeth and may also reduce (or even eliminate) the need for extensive treatment later.

What types of pediatric dental appliance are most common?

There are many types of pediatric dental appliances.  The major categories of pediatric dental appliance are described below:

Mouth Guards

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and American Dental Association (ADA) recommend that children wear mouth guards when playing sports and participating in recreational activities.

Space Maintainers

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:

  • Fixed space maintainers – Depending on the position of the missing tooth and the condition of the surrounding teeth, Dr. Day may adhere a “band and loop,” a “crown and loop,” or a “distal shoe” type of spacer to fill the empty gap.  All spacers fulfill the same function; the difference is how they attach to the adjacent teeth.  Fixed spacers are usually made of metal and are highly durable.  If a highly visible tooth is missing, an acrylic button may be used so it blends with the adjacent teeth.
  • Removable space maintainers – Removable spacers are rarely used with young children.  Working a little like orthodontic retainers, special plastic parts fit into the empty slot to prevent the “drifting” of adjacent teeth.

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) may face complications such as 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 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.

Expansion Appliances

An overbite, where the upper front teeth protrude over the lower front teeth, can be corrected with an expansion appliance, as can a crossbite.  The expansion appliance is used to stretch and widen the arch, providing enough space for the teeth to be realigned in a straight manner.  Expansion appliances are custom-made, and can be affixed to the inside or the outside of the teeth.  Children born with a cleft palate may be required to wear an expansion appliance to prepare the jaw for oral surgery.

Bionator

If Dr. Day believes that the child’s jaws are not growing in proportion to one another, a bionator device may be recommended.  In general, the bionator positions the lower jaw forward, helping the teeth to erupt and align properly.  This dental appliance is successful in reducing extensive orthodontic treatments later on, and helps to promote natural-looking alignment.

If you have questions or concerns about dental appliances, please contact our office at 517-393-8500.

Day Family Dental

Dr. Nathan Day, DMD • Dentist • Lansing, MI

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