Infants since the beginning of time have used thumb or finger sucking to sooth and relax themselves, a natural habit that many toddlers follow as they grow. But as a child grows older, thumb sucking can become a habit that harms his or her oral and overall health.
The majority of children stop thumb sucking on their own as they get older and the habit becomes socially unacceptable among their peers. This usually occurs between the ages of two and four. Other children keep sucking their thumbs past this age, and that’s when the habit becomes a concern.
That’s because thumb sucking after teeth have appeared can dramatically change the jaw’s ability to grow normally. Thumb sucking also can lead to misaligned teeth.
At Ragan Orthodontics, we offer special oral devices that can be worn by children to prevent them from continuing thumb-sucking before it negatively impacts their health. To learn more or to schedule an appointment at our Dallas area locations in Lakewood, Preston Hollow and Park Cities, contact Ragan Orthodontics today.
How Does Thumb Sucking Harm Children?
If a child’s thumb-sucking habit continues past the age when it should have stopped, the result can be upper front teeth that flare out and lower teeth that move inward and back. Thumb sucking also hinders lower jaw growth and can cause the upper jaw to jut forward.
The habit can result in:
- Misaligned teeth
- Failure of front teeth to properly close together
- Upper jaw collapse, which leads to cross-bite
What to Do
Many parents turn to old-fashioned methods to prevent thumb sucking in their children. These can include making them wear gloves or placing bitter-tasting material on their thumbs. These methods may work for a time, but Ragan Orthodontics offers a proven safe and effective technique to end thumb sucking.
At Ragan, Dr. Michael Ragan can fit your child with what is known as a thumb crib appliance. This small appliance, made of metal, is worn inside your child’s mouth and is attached to his or her upper teeth.
The thumb crib effectively prevents your child from placing his or her thumb or fingers on gums behind their front teeth. By preventing this contact, children no longer receive the calming feeling that thumb sucking previously provided. Without that positive feedback, children no longer have a reason to continue thumb sucking.
In most cases, we find that the thumb crib appliance can stop thumb sucking the very first time it is used.
At Ragan Orthodontics, Dr. Ragan and our team will examine your child’s bite for signs of trouble and perform a thorough examination. This helps us determine if the thumb crib appliance can benefit your child. If one is used, we’ll review your child’s progress to determine when the thumb crib appliance is no longer needed.
This device is not painful, although children may experience mild soreness in the early going. While the device is on, it’s best that children don’t chew gum or eat hard or sticky foods.
If you are concerned that your child’s thumb-sucking habit has lasted too long and may be causing physical harm, it’s time to seek professional help from an orthodontist. Contact Ragan Orthodontics today to learn if your child can benefit from the thumb crib appliance – and put an end to this potentially harmful childhood habit.