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Posts for tag: thumb sucking

ThumbSuckingOneofManyFactorstoConsiderWhenTreatingaPoorBite

It’s true — thumb sucking beyond age 4 can cause bite problems for permanent teeth. But prolonged thumb sucking is just one of a number of possible contributing factors for a bad bite (malocclusion). A dentist must identify all the factors involved when a bad bite is present — their involvement is essential for a successful treatment outcome.

A fairly benign habit for infants and toddlers, thumb sucking is related to an “infantile swallowing pattern” young children use by thrusting their tongues forward between the upper and lower teeth when they swallow. Around age 4, though, they usually transition to an adult swallowing pattern in which the tongue rests on the roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth. Thumb sucking stops for most children around the same time.

Thumb sucking beyond this age, though, can put increased pressure on incoming permanent teeth pushing them forward. This could lead to an “open bite” in which the upper and lower teeth don’t meet when the jaws are closed. The tongue may also continue to thrust forward when swallowing to seal the resulting gap, which further reinforces the open bite.

Before treating the bite with braces, we must first address the thumb sucking and improper tongue placement when swallowing — if either isn’t corrected the teeth could gradually revert to their previous positions after the braces come off. Besides behavioral incentives, we can also employ a thin metal appliance called a “tongue crib” placed behind the upper and lower incisors. A tongue crib discourages thumb sucking and makes it more difficult for the tongue to rest within the open bite gap when swallowing, which helps retrain it to a more normal position.

An open bite can also occur if the jaws develop with too much vertical growth. Like thumb sucking and improper tongue placement, abnormal jaw growth could ultimately cause orthodontic treatment to fail. In this case, though, surgery may be necessary to correct the jaw structure.

With all these possible variables, our first step needs to be a thorough orthodontic exam that identifies all the cause factors for your child’s specific malocclusion. Knowing if and how thumb sucking may have contributed to the poor bite will help us design a treatment strategy that’s successful.

If you would like more information on the causes of poor tooth position, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”

TakePositiveActionwithYourChildsThumb-SuckingHabit

As a parent you’re concerned with a number of issues involving your child’s health, not the least of which involves their teeth. One of the most common is thumb-sucking.

While later thumb-sucking is a cause for concern, it’s quite normal and not viewed as harmful in infant’s and very young children. This universal habit is rooted in an infant swallowing pattern: all babies tend to push the tongue forward against the back of the teeth when they swallow, which allows them to form a seal while breast or bottle feeding. Infants and young children take comfort or experience a sense of security from sucking their thumb, which simulates infant feeding.

Soon after their primary teeth begin to erupt, the swallowing pattern changes and they begin to rest the tongue on the roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth when swallowing. For most children thumb sucking begins to fade as their swallowing pattern changes.

Some children, though, continue the habit longer even as their permanent teeth are beginning to come in. As they suck their thumb the tongue constantly rests between the front teeth, which over time may interfere with how they develop. This can cause an “open bite” in which the upper and lower teeth don’t meet properly, a problem that usually requires orthodontic treatment to correct it.

For this reason, dentists typically recommend encouraging children to stop thumb-sucking by age 3 (18-24 months to stop using a pacifier). The best approach is positive reinforcement — giving appropriate rewards over time for appropriate behavior: for example, praising them as a “big” boy or girl when they have gone a certain length of time without sucking their thumb or a pacifier. You should also use training or “Sippy” cups to help them transition from a bottle to a regular cup, which will further diminish the infant swallowing pattern and need for thumb-sucking.

Habits like thumb-sucking in young children should be kept in perspective: the habit really isn’t a problem unless it goes on too long. Gentle persuasion, along with other techniques we can help you with, is the best way to help your child eventually stop.

If you would like more information on thumb sucking, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Thumb Sucking in Children” and “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”

By Stephen P. Lukin, D.D.S.
April 28, 2012
Category: Oral Health
TheFactsAboutThumbSucking

One topic we are often asked about is finger or thumb sucking and/or pacifier use — a challenge that most parents or caregivers will likely face with at least one of their children. The first and perhaps most important thing to remember is that it is totally normal for babies and young children to suck their fingers, thumb or a pacifier. It only becomes a problem when it continues as the child ages or if you unnecessarily make it a problem.

For most children, the sucking instinct starts in the womb before birth. This fact is evident, as many expectant mothers are shown their child sucking fingers or a thumb during a mid or late-term sonogram. Once the child is born, the habit may continue because it provides the child with a sense of security. Other research indicates that some babies start sucking habits as a way to make contact with, test and learn about their new world outside the womb. It is interesting to note that most children typically tend to stop finger or thumb sucking habits on their own and without much intervention between the ages of two and four. However, for others it can continue much longer. And that is the scenario that parents and caregivers need to be aware of so that they can monitor sucking habits.

Children who suck their thumbs or a pacifier after the age of two have a higher risk of developing some long term negative effects from the habit. This includes but is not limited to upper jaw development issues and “buck” teeth (upper front teeth that protrude forward out of a natural position towards the lips). For this reason, some researchers feel that children should cease thumb or finger sucking and/or pacifier use by 18 months of age. However, the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents and caregivers encourage children to cease this habit by age three.

If you feel your child is at risk due to his/her age and habits, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for your child. After a thorough exam, we can work with you to create a strategy for helping your child overcome finger, thumb or pacifier habits. To learn more about this topic, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Thumb Sucking in Children.”