When and Why We Use Dental Appliances

There are several types of dental appliances used in pediatric patients from mouth guards to space maintainers and crowns to sleep apnea devices. While they can truly help alleviate issues and improve conditions, getting your child to regularly utilize their pediatric dental appliance can be a challenge. The good news is that they can help more extensive treatment later.

Mouth Guards

Mouth guards can be purchased at athletic stores and online, however, the customization of a mouth guard provided by your child’s dentist provides the greatest level of protection if your child participates in an activity where they may be at risk for an oral maxillofacial injury. We also create mouth guards for some children with bruxism because they can help reduce the impact and reduce teeth grinding.

We know wearing mouth guards are not as comfortable as not having to wear them however, the difference they can make is substantial. In a recent study, researchers found that less than 8 percent of athletes engaged in contact sport who wore a mouth guard sustained an injury, while 48-60 percent of those who chose not to wear a mouth guard had sustained an injury.

NuSmile Crowns

Sometimes, a primary (baby) tooth has undergone severe decay and requires a pediatric crown.  Or your child has an incident where they lose a significant portion of a baby tooth too early. At Pediatric Dental Associates, we offer natural looking, highly durable zirconia crowns by NuSmile. You may not think losing part of a baby tooth matters because a permanent tooth will replace it, but if lost too early or if severely decayed, the affected baby tooth can cause more issues if not treated correctly and appropriate with a pediatric crown.

Space Maintainers

In the instance your child has severe decay, and the tooth cannot be salvaged or falls out, the teeth around them may shift to fill the open space and cause alignment and spacing problems for their adult teeth.  Space maintainers or “spacers” create an area that holds the space for that adult tooth until it erupts.

Thumb Sucking Appliances

For the most part, kids outgrow their thumb sucking habits, before kindergarten, but if your child is ages five or six and still sucking his or her thumb, they are putting themselves at risk for oral complications, which can include narrowed arches, impacted teeth, and misaligned teeth. There is a device called a “palatal crib” which can stop thumb sucking quickly.  It prevents the thumb from reaching the roof of the mouth, which deters the thumb sucking in your child and is very helpful in breaking the habit. It may be tough to get your child to adhere to using this appliance in lieu of sucking their thumb, but talk to us about how we can help encourage your child to move on from this common pattern.

Sleep  Appliances

Does your child have a sleep-related breathing disorder? You can gather clues to report to your health professional by observing your child sleeping. Look for the following signs:

  • Snoring
  • Pauses in breathing
  • Chronic mouth breathing
  • Constant tossing and turning
  • Night panics
  • Bed-wetting

For younger children who are still growing, the use of an orthodontic appliance called a palatal expander has proven helpful in some cases. A palatal expander gently widens the roof of the mouth (palate) over time by separating bones that don’t permanently fuse together until puberty. It’s most often used to create more room for crowded teeth, but the expansion can also increase airflow.

Older children who have stopped growing can sometimes benefit from Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT). This involves wearing a custom-made oral appliance designed to reposition the jaw during sleep so that the tongue is held away from the back of the throat, reducing the potential for obstruction.

The first step is to figure out what’s keeping your child from getting the restful sleep that’s so crucial to good health and well-being. So if you have any questions about sleep apnea, please contact our office or schedule an appointment for a consultation. We can start the process that will determine the best treatment for your child.


Pediatric Dental Associates of Alabama is led by top-rated pediatric dentists with locations in Birmingham, Cullman, Hoover, Medplex, Oxford and Pell City. When looking for your child’s dentist, know that we aspire to be the premier provider of pediatric dental services in Alabama. We also provide orthodontics in our Hoover, Medplex and Cullman locations. Beautiful smiles are our specialty!


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