Habit Appliances for Children
Thumb and Finger Appliances
In most children, thumb sucking stops on its own between the ages of two and four years. But if the practice persists after the adult teeth have erupted, it can drastically change the growth patterns of the jaw and cause significant misalignment of the teeth.
If the thumb sucking habit persists, it can result in the upper front teeth flaring out and the lower ones moving back and inward. It can also hold back the growth of the lower jaw while causing the upper jaw to be thrust forward. Thumb or finger sucking can also cause an anterior open bite (where the front teeth fail to close together), collapse the shape of the upper arch, thereby causing a crossbite, or other problems.
Controlling Thumb Sucking or Finger Sucking
Like many potentially harmful behavior patterns, thumb sucking and finger sucking can be difficult habits to break. If your child has a thumb or finger sucking habit that has persisted past the age of five, and you’ve been unable to tame it, then it may be time for you to visit our office. We will consider treating your child with a habit appliance to assist in breaking the habit.
How does it work? The semicircular wires of a palatal crib keep the thumb or finger from touching the gums behind the front teeth. Simply preventing this contact seems to take all the enjoyment away from the thumb sucking habit – and without that pleasurable feedback, a child has no reason to continue the behavior. In fact, the device is often successful the first day it’s worn.
A Word About Tongue Thrusting
Like thumb sucking, tongue thrusting is a normal behavioral pattern in young children. It’s actually part of the natural infantile swallowing pattern, which will normally change on its own — by the age of six, in most children. If the pattern doesn’t change, however, it can lead to problems similar to those caused by thumb sucking. Fortunately, this problem can be successfully treated with a preventative tongue thrust habit appliance that’s very similar to a fixed palatal crib.