Thumb sucking

Dr. Janet L. Jordan, DDS

Certified Specialist in Orthodontics, Ahwatukee Orthodontics

[Submitted photo]

Is someone in your household having trouble kicking the thumb or finger sucking habit? Persistent thumb or finger sucking beyond about age 5 can cause significant tooth misalignment and in some, jaw deformation. The degree of disruption depends on several factors, such as how forceful the habit is, how often, and up to what age the habit is continuing.

Common Problems Caused by Thumb Sucking Include:

• Protrusive upper front teeth. This can be a simple tooth position problem, where the upper front teeth are tipped forward, or a jaw formation issue.

• Tipped back lower front teeth. The pressure of the thumb or finger(s) forces the lower front teeth to tip toward the tongue. This can lead to crowding and excessive overlap of teeth.

• Open bite. The upper and lower front teeth do not overlap when the back teeth are together. The shape of the opening between the upper and lower front teeth may match the child’s finger or thumb exactly.

• Crossbite. The formation of the upper jaw is too narrow for the lower jaw, so the upper and lower teeth do not fit together properly.

Strategies to Stop Thumb or Finger Sucking

For infants, try a pacifier. Pacifiers do not cause less damage, but it is easier to control a pacifier than a thumb when it comes to phasing it out. (Research indicates that no one particular kind of pacifier is superior to another.)

For the child under the age of 5, explain the risks, offer rewards and provide reminders such as the wearing of a glove, or a Band-Aid. Another product you might consider is Mavala Stop. You can find it on Amazon for about $16. It is a very bitter tasting nail polish that patients might want to try as it has been reported to be very effective.

Frequency: If it is less than one hour each day and the thumb or finger falls out at night, the habit may not be a problem. But, since research shows that after the age of 5 or 6, the shape of the jaw can be affected by the sucking activity a visit with the orthodontist is recommended.

We Can Help

If you cannot get your child to stop, your Orthodontist should be able to help. There are a number of suggestions and appliances that can be offered to stop the habit. These appliances can be made to be removable or semi-permanent. If the habit is more tenacious, a habit breaking guard or a crib may be helpful and typically the semi-permanent version works best. Typically the appliance will need to be used six to 10 months to make sure the habit has stopped. Your orthodontist can make some corrective tooth movements with the appliance as well, if indicated.

Still have questions? Please call or visit us for assistance. We would be happy to help.

Creating beautiful healthy smiles that last a life time.

For questions or to arrange a complimentary evaluation by your neighborhood specialist in Orthodontics, please call Ahwatukee Orthodontics the office of Janet Jordan, DDS, 480-598-3659

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