Child sucking their thumb

How Thumb Sucking Leads To Braces

If you have a child with a thumb sucking habit, then you may also be wondering how thumb sucking leads to braces, or how you can curb that behaviour in order to minimise the need for corrective orthodontics in the future.

Many children stop sucking their thumbs by the time they are between 2 to 4 years of age, though some revert to their thumb sucking habit when they feel stressed as a form of comfort.

Others simply don’t grow out of the thumb sucking routine so quickly.

Aside from the additional social effects which they may begin to experience when they’re sucking their thumbs at school, the thumb sucking habit among other things can also have a significant impact on the alignment of the child’s teeth as they grow.

This in turn will require orthodontic treatment to correct teeth alignment later in life in order to avoid the side effects related to thumb sucking.

How does thumb sucking cause crooked teeth?

In the same way the braces and other orthodontic appliances shift teeth using gentle, consistent pressure, thumb sucking moves teeth in the wrong direction.

Thumb sucking can cause a variety of orthodontic issues however these are the 2 main problems we see as a result.

Overbite caused by thumb sucking

Sucking creates a vacuum in the mouth and the thumb causes forward pressure, particularly on the top front teeth.

This eventually produces an overbite and or overjet of the teeth which then need to be corrected.

Narrow upper jaw caused by upward pressure

A narrowing of the upper jaw can also occur due to the thumb being pressed into the roof of the mouth, which can cause a lisp when speaking and impact the alignment of other teeth in the mouth.

How to stop thumb sucking, and minimise orthodontic treatment

Now that you understand what kind of impact thumb sucking can have on the alignment of your teeth, you probably want to find out ways to stop it from happening, so you can minimise the need for braces for you kids.

Many children stop sucking their thumbs by the time they are between 2 to 4 years of age, though some revert to their thumb sucking habit when they feel stressed…

There are a variety of techniques and products which are designed to break the thumb sucking habit which will reduce these negative forces on the teeth.

Thumb sucking glove

A thumb sucking glove can be used which is designed to remind the wearer to stop sucking on their thumb.

Thumb sucking glove
A thumb sucking glove helps break the thumb sucking habit.

The glove has a different, less satisfying texture and is likely to break the mental cycle which is caused when a child begins to suck their thumb.

They come in a variety of fun colours and designs and are said to help break the habit quickly.

Bitter taste

If tougher measures are required, then a “nail alert” solution can be applied to the thumb which has a bitter (yet harmless) taste to discourage the desire for thumb sucking.

This treatment is also commonly used to stop nail biting as well.

Mavala nail alert
Paint-on solutions create a bitter taste top curb the thumb sucking habit.

Positive reinforcement

Of course, we don’t want to be bullying our kids into breaking the habit so it’s important to provide positive encouragement and recognition when they’re doing the right thing. This will help get children engaged and actively wanting to change their behaviour.

Palatal Crib

If you’ve tried everything it may be time to bring out the big guns and have an orthodontist assist in breaking your child’s habit.

Palatal thumb crib
A palatal crib stops thumb sucking by physically preventing the thumb sucking action inside the mouth. (Image credit: ODL Ortho)

An orthodontist may decide to install a palatal crib. Essentially, it’s an orthodontic appliance which is attached inside of the mouth, and physically alters the mouth surface which then does not give the same satisfaction to the child preventing them from sucking on their thumb.

If a thumb sucking habit is proving to be particularly difficult to stop then this type of physical intervention may be required in order to prevent significant dental issues from developing.

Conclusion

Thumb sucking is quite a natural behaviour for young children but if it continues for too long, it can have a significant long-term impact on the alignment of your teeth.

Aside from the obvious health issues this can cause, the orthodontic treatment required to correct the position of the teeth is where it will start to have a financial impact too.

Our specialist orthodontic team are well experienced in the issues which can arise from thumb sucking, so if you do need some extra help breaking the habit or treating the side effects feel free to contact us for a consultation.

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