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Thumb Sucking – Intervention Necessary?

Thumb Sucking

Sucking is a natural behavior for babies. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects may make babies feel secure and happy and help them learn about their world. Many infants begin sucking their thumbs or using pacifiers within three months of birth. Neither habit generally poses a dental problem if it is discontinued before the child is 3 – 4 years . If it continues we have to intervene.

When to Intervene?
A child usually turns to the thumb when bored, tired, or upset. It doesn’t always indicate that a child has emotional problems. Most experts agree that a thumb-sucker younger than 5 shouldn’t be pressured to stop. Most children will give up the habit on their own before they enter kindergarten.  Some older children will retain the habit, which can cause severe dental problems. If the habit continues after 6 years of age, the damage to the jaws and teeth become severe. 

What Happens?
During thumbsucking there will be changes in the roof of the mouth, the tongue sits in a lowered position and there is imbalance in the muscle forces. This results in narrowing of the upper arch and teeth malalignment. Thumbsucking can also cause open bite, as the thumb rests on the lower teeth during the course of sucking. In addition there will be proclined upper front teeth {“buck teeth”}. Children may experience difficulty in swallowing and speech patterns due to the adverse changes.  Some children experience social difficulties, as often children are taunted by their peers for engaging in what they can consider to be an “immature” habit. This taunting often results the child being rejected by the group  which inturn cause understandable psychological stress.

How to Correct?
According to the delibracy of the habit,

Preventive Therapy :
A bandage can be wrapped around the thumb or thumb caps can be used.
Bitter tasting neem oil or Bad tasting Nail polish can be applied.
Psychological counselling can be given.

Appliance Therapy:
But Children never wants to give away the pleasure …so they get used to the bitter taste and the preventive methods go in vain. If you wait too long to stop the thumb and finger sucking, your child can have permanent changes to their jaw shape, bite, and teeth. So, intervention with Appliance becomes necessary.
Fixed or Removable Appliances with spikes can be inserted which acts as a reminder.              
Myobraces can also be used to train the tongue, correct the habit and restore the alignment of the jaws and teeth.


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