Orthodontics |2 min read

Pediatric Appliances

When you think of dental appliances, you normally think of a teenager wearing braces, but some dental appliances are used earlier to protect a child’s mouth, prepare it for braces, and help the permanent teeth grow in correctly.  Below is a list of common appliances used to correct oral problems in children.  

Mouth Guards

If your child plays sports, it is important that you tend to their oral care as well as their physical needs.  You should require your child to wear a mouth guard when they participate in sports and other recreational activities.  There are two main types of mouth guards that you can use: a customized mouth guard from a pediatric dentist, or a thermoplastic mouth guard that can be boiled and formed to fit your child’s mouth.  The second type can be purchased at nearly any sporting goods store.  They can also be used to help with teeth grinding at night.  


Expanders are used to fix problems with the bite (overbite or crossbite), stretch the arch, and provide space for the teeth to realign themselves.  They are used to prepare a child for braces, and in some cases, prepare a child with a cleft palate for surgery.  

Space Maintainers

Sometimes baby teeth are lost or removed prematurely, and it is necessary to use a space maintainer to help permanent teeth grow in correctly.  Space maintainers can either be removable, or fixed in place.  Removable retainers are normally reserved for older children.  


In rare cases, a child’s top and bottom jaw grow at different rates.  A bionator can help align the jaw, therefore pulling the teeth into alignment.  However, the appliance forces a child to breathe through their nose, so they are not recommended for children under the age of 7.   

Thumb Sucking Appliances

While it is quite normal for a child to suck their thumb for the first few years of life, it can cause complications if they continue to suck past the age of five or six.  There is an appliance known as the palatal crib that can stop thumb sucking almost immediately.  It is a small appliance affixed to the back of the top teeth that prevents a child’s thumb from making contact with the roof of the mouth, therefore making thumbsucking less pleasurable.  The crib can be permanently affixed or removable.  


It would be impossible to talk about pediatric appliances without mentioning braces, as some patients start wearing braces as early as age 7.  There are many different types of braces, the traditional metal braces, ceramic braces (or clear braces), lingual braces (braces placed on the inside of the mouth), and invisalign.