Much worse than it looks
Thumb sucking is considered normal behaviour for babies and may not cause any irreversible harm in children less than 3-4 years of age, depending on factors such as duration, intensity and frequency of the sucking habit. However, continued thumb sucking beyond 6 years of age may cause severe problems of the growth of teeth and jaws and speech development.
Much worse than it looks
- Pushing forward the top teeth
- Pushing inward the bottom teeth
- Large spaces between the teeth
- Top and bottom teeth not meeting at the front (Openbite)
- Narrowing of the top jaw which leads to the teeth crossing at the back when biting (Crossbite)
- Speech problems such as lisping and imprecise pronunciation
These problems can lead to asymmetrical growth of the face, poor facial appearance, severe irregularity of the teeth and speech difficulty. In extreme cases if left unattended and continues into the teenage years, it may need corrective surgery and extensive speech therapy.
Closely related habits such as nail biting, pencil and pen chewing can have similar effects besides causing wear of the teeth or injury to the gums and supporting structures around the teeth.
Another related problem is ‘Tongue thrusting’, wherein the child forces the tongue against the back surface of the front teeth while swallowing, similar to an infant’s swallowing pattern, producing similar effects to thumb sucking.
A number of theories exist to explain the reasons behind thumb sucking. These include emotional and psychological factors such as feelings of insecurity or a sudden change in domestic or work atmosphere which the child cannot cope with, or stress related to school, friends...etc.
Discouraging the habit
Parents can try to gently discourage the child, comfort him and distract him from doing this by providing other activities that attract him. This needs a lot of patience and increasing the time spent with the child. Forcing a child to stop this habit should never be attempted and will never work, it is indeed counter-productive.
How we can help
We at Premier Orthodontics are happy to see your child over the age of 6 years old when permanent teeth start to come through who suffer from thumb sucking to help stop and treat the effects of this habit. We strongly believe prevention is better than cure. Therefore, at your first consultation we will be happy to offer advice and guidance, educate the child, and help parents and child to break the habit in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. This preventive method works with 90% of the children who are mature enough to understand, learn and take their own decision to stop this nasty habit. We are here to help.
Sometimes the use of a ‘Habit breaker’, which is placed behind the front teeth for a period of one or a few months, to prevent or interrupt thumb sucking is necessary. In cases combined with tongue thrusting, we may use a ‘Pre-Orthodontic trainer’ to train the correct positioning of the tongue.
Stopping this habit early can prevent a child from having a lengthy and complex course of orthodontic treatment later on which may require the removal of adult teeth or corrective surgery.
Contact us now to book a thumb sucking consultation.