Orthodontist in Leeds

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Orthodontic Information Sheets » Braces & Thumb Sucking

Thumb Sucking

Thumb or finger (digit) sucking is quite common in young children stops spontaneously. However, in some cases the habit continues beyond ten years of age and can lead to a number of dental problems.

What are the dental effects of thumb sucking?

Thumb or finger sucking can result in the following:
  • An open-bite, where a large gap forms between the upper and lower front teeth when the back teeth are touching.
  • The upper front teeth are pushed forwards and the lower front teeth are pushed backwards.
  • The upper jaw is narrowed often producing a crossbite. Significant effects on the teeth are only likely to occur if the habit exceeds six hours a day.

How do I stop my child thumb sucking?

It is important that the habit stops before orthodontic treatment begins. We often find that once we have explained the dental effects of thumb or finger sucking this is enough for the habit to stop by choice. However with some children even if they want to stop the habit persists. In these instances we have had success with the following techniques.

Simple home measures

Often the thumb or finger sucking only happens when children are tired or sleeping. In this instance you could try putting an adhesive bandage or tape around the thumb or finger, and coating it with a bitter tasting varnish, available from the Pharmacy. Putting a sock over the hand at night has also been suggested. Since cooperation is essential to success, it may also be helpful to create a weekly chart so you can record when the aid has been used successfully.

And if this doesn't work...

It is also possible to fit customised thumb dissuaders. These devices are glued to the molars for a period of six to twelve months. Generally we only fit such devices as a last resort.