AAO Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas, TX

How Can Orthodontia Help Treat Thumb Sucking?

Thumb sucking is a very normal habit, and many toddlers and children suck on their thumbs and fingers to calm themselves and relax. However, if children continue this habit beyond a certain age, they can cause damage to their mouths and teeth. Fortunately, at Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas, TX, we can use several different techniques to break this habit before it causes significant damage to a child’s jawline or teeth.

How Can Orthodontia Help Treat Thumb Sucking?

We can use a thumb crib appliance or a thumb guard to stop your child from engaging in this habit.

Thumb Crib Appliance

A thumb crib appliance is a small metallic device that will be attached to the upper teeth in your child’s mouth. This device will be customized to fit the size and shape of your child’s mouth.

The thumb crib appliance will stop your child from putting fingers and thumbs on the gums behind their upper teeth. Stopping your child from engaging in this behavior will prevent them from feeling calming sensations as they suck on their thumbs and fingers. When these soothing feelings go away, your child will learn to stop engaging in this harmful habit.

Thumb Guard

A thumb guard is a device that medical professionals have been using to treat this habit for many years. We suggest using a brand of thumb guard that is called TGuard. Your child will wear this plastic device on their thumb or finger. This device will take away the enjoyable sensations that soothe your child when they suck on their thumbs and fingers. Taking away this soothing effect will help your child break this damaging habit.

This device is a cost-effective way to stop your child from continuing this behavior. Our innovative TGuard device has a unique locking feature that will help your child wear this device during the recommended time periods. This feature will also prevent your child from accidentally losing the thumb guard and requiring you to buy a replacement device.

Why Do Children Suck on Their Fingers or Thumbs?

Sucking on thumbs and fingers is normal behavior that many children perform at the beginning of their lives. In fact, ultrasounds have demonstrated that many babies suck on their thumbs when they are in the womb. Once they are born, some babies continue to suck on their fingers or thumbs as a way to feel relaxed or comfortable.

Although this habit can help babies and young children handle upsetting or stressful situations, most grow out of it as they get older. Many children will stop sucking on their thumbs and fingers on their own. As children get older, teasing from friends or disapproval from adults often prompts them to abandon this habit by themselves. Children frequently stop engaging in this habit when they are two to four years old.

When Should I Be Concerned About This Habit?

Many infants and toddlers suck on their thumbs and fingers in order to feel calm and relaxed. However, as your child grows and develops, continuing to engage in this habit can cause damage to their jaws and mouth. In general, it’s normal to feel concerned if your child continues to suck on their thumbs or fingers after they are between the ages of two and four.

How Will This Habit Harm My Child?

If your child continues to engage in this behavior past the ages of two and four, they are likely to suffer from teeth issues, social challenges, and a number of other significant problems.

Social Problems

Engaging in this habit on a regular basis can decrease the amount of time that your child spends playing with friends and taking part in other social activities. Further, your child might be less likely to talk to friends and relatives. These challenges can impair your child’s social development.

Orthodontic Challenges

When children are very young, their jaws and teeth are very flexible, and their mouths may be able to correct the damage that is caused when they suck on their fingers or thumbs. However, engaging in this habit past the ages of three or four can have negative effects on the growth of your child’s teeth and jaws.

For instance, their bottom teeth might move back, and their front teeth might start to jut out. These changes will cause your child’s teeth to become misaligned. Developing misaligned teeth and other orthodontic issues can cause your child to suffer from mouth injuries, problems with chewing, and other issues. Correcting these problems can be a long, expensive process.

Skin Issues

This habit can cause your child to develop cracked, irritated skin on their fingers or thumbs. Your child might also have calluses, peeling skin, and frequent skin infections. Further, this habit can cause your child to develop uncomfortable rashes around their mouth.

Speech Impediments

Many children who suck on their fingers and thumbs can develop speech impediments that make it difficult for them to communicate with their parents, friends, and teachers. For instance, your child could develop a noticeable lisp. Further, they might struggle to say words that contain strong consonants. Fixing this issue can be very challenging, and attending sessions with speech therapists can be expensive and time-consuming.

Problems With Bullying

Unfortunately, many children will tease or bully peers who suck on their fingers and thumbs. Dealing with bullies will cause your child to experience stress, fear, and worry. These issues can decrease your child’s happiness and performance at school. Further, your child might develop self-esteem issues.

Increased Illness

Germs and other harmful substances are often present on children’s thumbs and fingers. As a result, this habit can increase the chances that your child will suffer from frequent diseases that prevent them from regularly attending school and other important activities. Stopping your child from engaging in this habit can decrease this risk and help them become happier and healthier.

Will These Treatments Be Uncomfortable for My Child?

Our thumb crib appliances and thumb guards are designed to break your child’s habit in a gentle manner, and both of these devices have special features that will help your child feel comfortable throughout the treatment process. As a result, these treatments will be more pleasant for your child than many at-home remedies.

For instance, many parents attempt to stop this habit by putting unpleasant chemicals on their children’s nails. These chemicals could cause children to feel ill. In contrast, our thumb guards are made of a safe, flexible plastic that does not contain these harmful chemicals.

What Will My Initial Consultation Be Like?

During your initial meeting, we will carefully examine your child’s mouth and teeth. This examination will help us determine whether your child’s habit is causing harm to their smile. In particular, we will look for issues in the alignment of your child’s teeth and the growth of your child’s jaw. Further, analyzing your child’s mouth and teeth will allow us to choose a suitable treatment method.

Once we have chosen an option, we can explain the benefits of this treatment to your child. Talking about the importance of breaking this habit in a gentle, positive way will help your child feel motivated to change this damaging behavior.

Will I Receive Continued Support During the Treatment Process?

We will work with you as your child learns to break this harmful habit. For instance, if we have provided you with a thumb guard, we will be available during the next several weeks to discuss your child’s progress and analyze the device’s effect on their behavior.

We will also help you determine an appropriate time to stop these treatments. Although every child is unique, our thumb guards and thumb crib appliances are likely to work very quickly. As a result, your child probably won’t have to spend a long time using these devices. For instance, it’s common for our TGuard device to break a child’s thumb sucking habit within a month.

How Can I Support My Child During the Treatment Process?

Taking a positive, supportive attitude will help your child adjust to their thumb guard or thumb crib appliance. Further, you can use a number of strategies to help your child develop other coping mechanisms.

Provide Rewards

Rewarding your child when they make progress in quitting this habit is a good way to motivate and encourage them. For instance, you could put colorful stickers on a calendar when your child does not suck on their thumbs or fingers. Further, when your child manages to avoid this habit for a few days, you could take them on a special outing, cook a favorite meal, or watch an enjoyable movie together.

Identify Stressful Events

Your child is likely to use this behavior as a way to calm down and reduce stress. As a result, your child might engage in this habit during events that are frightening or uncomfortable. For instance, if your child feels nervous at school, they might engage in frequent thumb sucking during the school week.

Once you have identified the events that are causing your child to experience stress, you can give your child extra support and comfort during these times. You could also provide them with alternative coping mechanisms, such as a soft blanket or toy to hold during stressful events.

Talk About the Consequences

Telling your child about the negative consequences of this habit can be a powerful motivating strategy. For instance, you can find online videos that talk about the harmful effects of sucking on fingers and thumbs in a friendly, child-appropriate manner. Understanding how this behavior will impact your child in later life will help them realize the importance of breaking this habit.

Can These Treatments Really Help My Child Break This Habit?

If you’ve struggled to stop your child’s habit with at-home remedies, you might be a bit skeptical about the benefits of a thumb guard or a thumb crib appliance. However, there is ample evidence showing that these professional techniques can quickly break this habit. For example, several studies show that our TGuard device stops about 95% of children from sucking on their thumbs.

Will These Devices Prevent My Child From Attending School or Engaging in Social Activities?

Our thumb guards and thumb crib appliances are designed to break your child’s thumb-sucking habit without interfering with their ability to engage in sports, school, and other activities. For instance, our TGuard device is very flexible and comfortable. As a result, your child will still be able to draw pictures, learn to write, and play when they are wearing this device.

Break the Habit

Continued thumb sucking can cause your child to develop a cross-bite, jutting teeth, and other issues. Treating this habit with gentle measures like a thumb crib or thumb guard can break this habit and protect your child’s health. To learn more about our range of treatments, contact us at Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas, TX for an initial consultation today.