Thumb Sucking & Tongue Thrusting
Posted on 02/09/2018
Thumb Sucking & Tongue Thrusting

Early TreatmentThumb and finger sucking habits are a perfectly natural way for babies and toddlers to soothe themselves. However, as a child grows there comes a point when this comforting habit can cause more harm than good.

While it is completely natural for children to engage in thumb sucking during the first few years of life, prolonging the habit could cause social awkwardness and damage to the jaw’s growth pattern.

Because of the rich blood supply and the quick growth patterns of a child’s jaw, the pressure from fingers and thumbs pushes the teeth and bones out of shape. As such, if your child is a vigorous thumb-sucker the chances of a malformed jaw are much greater and thus the chances of needing jaw surgery later in life are much greater too. For cases like these, your North Scarborough orthodontist may recommend a thumb and finger appliance a.k.a. a habit appliance.

What Is a Habit Appliance?

Rather than deal with the development of a crossbite, misaligned teeth, or other future jaw problems, you can use a habit appliance to help your child kick this habit before it causes harm.

A habit appliance is a lot like a retainer that an older child might wear after braces. It is made from metal with semicircular wires that form a palatal crib. For thumb sucking, the appliance is attached just behind the upper teeth. With the crib in the way, your child is unable to make contact with the roof of the mouth with his or her fingers and thumbs. Preventing this contact results in no pleasure received from sucking, and without that pleasure the habit fades away. Some patients have found success with the habit appliance after just one day. Whatever the timeline, once the habit is broken the appliance will be removed.

What About Tongue Thrusting?

Another habit that is natural for young children to develop is tongue thrusting. When infants swallow they have to thrust their tongues backward in order to get the food down safely. As children grow, the habit becomes less and less necessary and most children grow out of it by age six. However, in some cases the habit persists, thus causing issues similar to thumb sucking to develop, such as crossbites, misaligned teeth, etc.

Luckily, there are appliances to help with that too. The tongue thrusting appliance is similar to the palatal crib used for preventing thumb sucking. The only difference is what the crib specifically blocks. Just as the appliance for thumb sucking keeps thumbs at bay, the tongue thrusting appliance gets in the way of the tongue, eliminating access for thrust.

Getting Started with An Appliance

If your child’s thumb sucking or tongue thrusting habits have persisted beyond the recommended age, it may be time to consider getting a thumb and finger appliance. As your trusted local orthodontic practice, your child’s oral and dental health is very important to us. So contact Braceland Orthodontists today at our North Scarborough office with any questions you may have about thumb and finger appliances!