There are many discussions surrounding how long it takes to form a habit. Some say 21 days, while others argue it could take up to two months of repetitive behavior before something sticks and a habit develops. Ask a toddler or young child though and their answer is likely to be they were born with it. All babies are born with a natural sucking reflex and while harmless as an infant, it could potentially become a problem if it continues too far into childhood. Luckily, they don’t have to fight this alone. Many dentist offices offer habit breaking appliances as an alternative to help curve, and ultimately stop, this behavior.
What are Habit Breaking Appliances?
Many children suck their thumb as a form of comfort and a way to relax and calm themselves when they’re upset. While this habit is usually broken by the time their 2nd birthday rolls around, there are several cases where this proves to be more of a challenge than one would think. Enter habit breaking appliances. These appliances are made of stainless steel and inserted into the mouth where they’re attached to the back molars. Generally, they’re left in place for approximately six months to ensure the habit is effectively broken.
Types of Habit Breaking Appliances
There are two common types of habit breaking appliances: a thumb sucking appliance and a tongue thrusting appliance. The thumb sucking appliance is fixed to the roof of the mouth just behind the top teeth. It’s hardly visible and doesn’t affect eating or cause discomfort. The idea is that it’s a reminder every time the thumb enters the mouth that it isn’t supposed to be there. Eventually, the habit will cease completely and the appliance can be removed.
Tongue thrusting is a habit where children push and rest their tongue behind their bottom teeth. Over time, just as thumb sucking does for the top teeth, the habit threatens the alignment of the teeth. With this particular habit, an appliance is inserted just behind the bottom teeth to train the tongue where to rest.
Do Habit Breaking Appliances Work?
As with all habits, every attempt should be made to break them at home before resulting to a more permanent solution. However, habit breaking appliances are an effective way to stop unwanted behavior when it comes to thumb sucking and/or tongue thrusting. If your child has developed this habit, reach out to the team at Kids 4 Ever Pediatric Dentistry to discuss your options.