Thumb and finger-sucking habits are a perfectly natural way for babies and toddlers to soothe themselves. However, as a child grows there comes a point when this comforting habit can cause more harm than good.
While it is completely natural for children to suck their thumbs during the first few years of life, prolonging the habit could cause social awkwardness and damage to the jaws growth pattern. Because of the rich blood supply and quick growth patterns of a child’s jaw, the pressure from fingers and thumbs pushes the teeth and bones out of shape. As such, if your child is a vigorous thumb-sucker the chances of him or her developing a malformed jaw are much greater.
The good news is that your St. Joseph and Gallatin orthodontist, Dr. Lauren Windhorst, has a solution. Rather than deal with the development of a crossbite, misaligned teeth, or other related jaw problems in the future, you can use a habit appliance to help your child kick this bad habit before it causes harm.
What Is a Habit Appliance?
A habit appliance is a lot like a retainer that an older child might wear after undergoing treatment with braces. It is made from metal with semicircular wires that form a palatal crib. Your child’s orthodontist can attach the appliance just behind the upper teeth. With the crib in the way, your child will no longer be able to make contact with the roof of his or her mouth with his or her fingers and thumbs. Preventing this contact results in no pleasure gained from the sucking. And without that pleasure, the habit fades away.
Some patients have found success with the habit appliance after just one day. Whatever the timeline, once you and your child’s orthodontist agree that the habit is broken the appliance will be removed.
What About Tongue-Thrusting?
Another habit that is natural for young children to cultivate is tongue thrusting. When infants swallow they have to thrust their tongues forward in order to get the food safely down. As children grow the habit becomes less and less necessary and most children grow out of it by the age of seven. However, in some cases the habit persists, thus causing issues similar to thumb-sucking to develop, such as crossbites, misaligned teeth, and so on.
Luckily, your St. Joseph and Gallatin orthodontist has appliances to help with that too. The tongue-thrusting appliance is similar to the palatal crib used to prevent thumb-sucking. The only difference is what the crib specifically blocks. Just as the appliance for thumb-sucking keeps thumbs at bay, the tongue-thrusting appliance gets in the way of the tongue, eliminating access for thrust.
Getting Started with an Appliance
If your child’s thumb-sucking or tongue-thrusting habits have persisted beyond the recommended age, it may be time to consider investing in a thumb and finger appliance.
As your trusted orthodontist for St. Joseph, Gallatin, and other Northwest Missouri communities like Cameron and Savannah, our team believes there is nothing more important than your child’s oral and dental health. Contact Choice Orthodontics today to get your son or daughter started on a path to better oral and dental health with a thumb and finger appliance.