What are habit appliances?
Habit appliances are devices that are most commonly used to help young children stop sucking their thumbs. Habit appliances are also known as habit breaking appliances or crib appliances. Most are metal devices that are placed on the inside of the front teeth and can look like metal retainers. Some habit breaking devices can be removed, like retainers, and some are glued into place and cannot be removed. Habit breaking appliances are often held in place by the upper molars. Habit breaking appliances can both physically stop the bad habit and can serve as a reminder to not partake in the bad habit.
How are habit appliances used?
The main purpose of habit appliances is to stop toddlers from sucking their thumbs. However, some adults also have habit appliances inserted to stop them from tongue-thrusting. The goal of habit appliances, beyond breaking bad habits like tongue-thrusting and thumb-sucking, is to prevent individuals from positioning their teeth in odd and unnatural positions that may lead to an open bite, an overbite, or protruding teeth. Habit appliances can prevent teeth from aligning in bad positions. By using a habit appliance for a child who sucks their thumb after getting their permanent teeth, you can potentially prevent the need for braces.
Can habit appliances be harmful?
Habit breaking appliances are not harmful to the teeth or mouth, and there is no proven disadvantage to using them. Habit appliances are temporary and prevent damage to the teeth caused by tongue-thrusting or thumb-sucking.
How long do individuals need to use habit-breaking appliances?
It could take a couple of weeks to several months to break the habit. Some habit appliances are like retainers and can be removed on one’s own, however, most habit appliances are glued into place and have to be removed by a dentist once they believe the habit has been successfully broken. Sometimes habit appliances can be left in an individual’s mouth for years.
When to consider a habit-breaking oral device:
- If thumb sucking becomes a habit
- If tongue-thrusting becomes a habit
- If any other bad habits arise that cause the teeth to be positioned in an unnatural way
Dr. Gustafson at Gustafson Morningstar Dentistry is a pediatric dentist who can prescribe and custom-fit a habit appliance for your toddler.
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