Healthy Start Appliances
What is Healthy StartTM?
Healthy StartTM is a new treatment option offered by Dr. Chowning that provides an exciting way to treat sleep-disordered breathing issues in children, address certain orthodontic and growth concerns, and correct bad habits such as thumb-sucking or pacifier use. The Healthy StartTM system was developed by Dr. Earl Bergersen to meet the need for a non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical treatment for sleep-disordered breathing in children. Dr. Bergersen is an orthodontist in Illinois who practiced orthodontics for 37 years and taught dental students about growth and development for over 25 years. He has been developing orthodontic appliances for almost 50 years. His early orthodontic treatment procedures have been the subject of major research studies in the U.S., Brazil and Finland. Dr. Bergersen’s years of experience and research have given him the firm foundation on which he based the Healthy StartTM system.
The Healthy StartTM system is a series of oral appliances custom-made to fit each patient and address his or her specific concerns. Each patient’s treatment plan is individualized for his or her particular needs.
How does Healthy StartTM work?
The Healthy StartTM appliances are worn at night to control the position of the patient’s upper and lower jaws, teeth and tongue. Depending on the patient’s needs, appliances also may need to be worn for several hours during the day, and treatment could include some exercises to train the oral and facial muscles into a proper posture. The Healthy StartTM appliances not only provide the correct positioning of the oral structures for good airflow and breathing at night; they also function to create a better airway for life! They guide the growth of the jaws, direct the placement of the permanent teeth as they come into the mouth and control any abnormal habits like tongue-thrusting or teeth-grinding. This allows the airway to develop with the correct anatomy to permit good airflow and breathing during sleep for the rest of the patient’s life.
There are many factors that contribute to the shape of a child’s airway and that can predispose him or her to breathing issues when sleeping. The factors addressed by the Healthy StartTM system include the anatomy of the mouth and jaws, the position of the teeth, and the posture of the tongue.
Some children have poor muscle tone in the facial and tongue muscles, which can lead to a slackness of the tissues in the airway, making it more likely to be restricted. Facial muscle tone begins developing in utero, so poor muscle tone can be a problem that has its roots as far back as during pregnancy. Patients with poor facial muscle tone will likely require some muscle exercises in addition to wearing the Healthy StartTM appliances.
Others have high-risk anatomy of the upper and lower jaws. This high-risk anatomy includes a narrow, high palate (roof of the mouth), a retruded lower jaw, and/or an opening between the upper and lower front teeth (an anterior open bite). These abnormalities are either naturally created by a growth and development problem or caused by a harmful habit such as thumb-sucking, long-term pacifier use or a tongue thrust.
When is the right time for a child to begin wearing a Healthy StartTM appliance?
The earlier, the better. A child can start wearing a Healthy StartTM appliance as early as age 3! The most common time to start treatment is from 5-7 years of age, when the child begins to get their first permanent teeth. Because the appliance is made to help guide the permanent teeth into the correct position, it is worn until all of the permanent teeth have come into the mouth, which is typically around age 12.
Is it difficult for a child to wear the Healthy StartTM appliances?
There is an adjustment period, during which the child must get used to wearing an oral appliance at night. They are made of a soft material and described to the child as a “pillow” for their teeth. One father described his experience with his daughter wearing a Healthy StartTM appliance, and he stated that it took about a week for her to be able to sleep through the night while keeping the appliance in. Because the quality of sleep the child experiences while wearing the appliance is so much better than without, it becomes very easy for her after the initial adjustment period.
What are the benefits of the Healthy StartTM system?
Due to an improved quality of sleep, improved quantity of sleep, and improved oxygen levels, your child will be well-rested and show improvements in many of the following areas:
- Teeth grinding
- Restless or fitful sleep
- Frequent awakenings
- Sleep-talking, sleep-walking and bed-wetting
- Daytime tiredness and irritability
- ADD/ADHD and poor school performance
After wearing the Healthy StartTM system, many patients need very little orthodontic movement of their teeth because they have already been guided into the proper position as the child grew. Some patients need no orthodontic intervention at all.
Are you interested in learning more about Healthy StartTM?
The Healthy StartTM website is a wonderful resource with frequently asked questions and both educational and testimonial videos. If you would like to find out if your child could benefit from Healthy StartTM, please call our office at 940-382-1750 to set up a consultation with Dr. Chowning.