Thumb sucking…. what’s the story?

03 February, 2015

Whilst baby teeth usually fall out to be replaced by their permanent successors, the upper and lower jaws are present from start to finish. As a result, it is important to pay attention to a child’s habits, in case his or her behaviour has the potential to affect the adult teeth and surrounding structures.

Sucking is a natural reflex providing infants, babies and young children a sense of security during difficult periods. It is no co-incidence that they will use thumbs, fingers, dummys and other objects to create a relaxing environment, commonly when they are “overtired” or trying to sleep.

Both having a dummy and thumb sucking can cause similar Orthodontic problems, such as;
– upper front teeth “stick out”
– lower front teeth “lean in”
– “open-bite” where the upper and lower front teeth do not meet
– narrowing of upper jaw leading to a “crossbite”
– lower jaw may be deflected to one side
– speech problems
However, the habit of sucking a thumb usually lasts longer than using a dummy.

For the reasons mentioned above, it is preferable if children have stopped thumb sucking by the time their permanent teeth are ready to erupt. Behavioural and dental evidence suggest that it would be better for children to stop sucking their digits before they started school and acquired their adult teeth.

There are a number of different techniques which may be employed to encourage a child to cease thumb sucking, including;
– positive reinforcement/encouragement
– praise when he/she isn’t employing the habit
– identify any “triggers” and provide some words of reassurance
– small rewards (e.g. an extra bedtime story) if they refrain from sucking

If these changes to behavioural patterns are ineffective, our team at Solas Orthodontics will be glad to work with you and your child, to provide effective thumb sucking solutions and address any adverse effects caused by the habit.