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Simple Appliances to Treat Bad Oral Habits

Last issue we looked at oral habits and their effect on facial growth and development. This month, we’ll discuss some common methods of correction for these habits. Keeping in

mind the adage “Form Follows Function”, it will come as no surprise that simple appliances can correct functional problems, thereby changing the form of the face and mouth.

The first, and most common, habit to correct is thumb and finger sucking. This can be a very distressing habit to try to self-correct at home. Commercially available bad tasting liquids and bandages are commonly tried but usually with little to no success. The same with mittens, tape, or boxing gloves (believe it or not!). The reason most of these home remedies don’t work is they are more punishment than treatment. This sets up a negative dynamic and nobody wins. Orthodontists commonly use a painless appliance called a Crib. The Crib is basically a custom made fence that hangs down behind the front teeth. It prevents the thumb or finger from going to its habitual spot. It is passive, painless and usually immediately effective. Expect a sour mood for a few days, effectively withdrawal, but if you weather that storm, it’s all positive from there as normal function begins to restore normal form.

Cribs are also used for tongue thrusting. A reciprocal crib guides the tongue to the roof of the mouth when swallowing. By not allowing the tongue to protrude forward, the lips must play in the game developing a proper lip seal swallow. Changing function again changes form. The earlier this habit is corrected the better because the tongue is a tough customer to correct if left too late.

The final habit, breathing habits, is less straightforward to resolve. In these cases, after consultation with our medical colleagues to rule out other factors, an Expansion Appliance can be used to widen the upper jaw. These palatal expanders can in some cases have a profound positive effect on breathing as well as tooth alignment. Better breathing function equals better form.

These problems often overlap and therefore appliances may be combined to correct multiple issues. However, keeping the “Form Follows Function!” rule in mind, positive change can be achieved early which leads to fewer problems in the future.

Doctors Hill and Gross have the experience to help craft beautiful smiles for all manner of patients, both children and adults.


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