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Posts for tag: thumb sucking

By Central Florida Cosmetic & Family Dentistry
April 22, 2019
Category: Oral Health
TakePositiveActionwithYourChildsThumb-SuckingHabit

As a parent you’re concerned with a number of issues involving your child’s health, not the least of which involves their teeth. One of the most common is thumb-sucking.

While later thumb-sucking is a cause for concern, it’s quite normal and not viewed as harmful in infant’s and very young children. This universal habit is rooted in an infant swallowing pattern: all babies tend to push the tongue forward against the back of the teeth when they swallow, which allows them to form a seal while breast or bottle feeding. Infants and young children take comfort or experience a sense of security from sucking their thumb, which simulates infant feeding.

Soon after their primary teeth begin to erupt, the swallowing pattern changes and they begin to rest the tongue on the roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth when swallowing. For most children thumb sucking begins to fade as their swallowing pattern changes.

Some children, though, continue the habit longer even as their permanent teeth are beginning to come in. As they suck their thumb the tongue constantly rests between the front teeth, which over time may interfere with how they develop. This can cause an “open bite” in which the upper and lower teeth don’t meet properly, a problem that usually requires orthodontic treatment to correct it.

For this reason, dentists typically recommend encouraging children to stop thumb-sucking by age 3 (18-24 months to stop using a pacifier). The best approach is positive reinforcement — giving appropriate rewards over time for appropriate behavior: for example, praising them as a “big” boy or girl when they have gone a certain length of time without sucking their thumb or a pacifier. You should also use training or “Sippy” cups to help them transition from a bottle to a regular cup, which will further diminish the infant swallowing pattern and need for thumb-sucking.

Habits like thumb-sucking in young children should be kept in perspective: the habit really isn’t a problem unless it goes on too long. Gentle persuasion, along with other techniques we can help you with, is the best way to help your child eventually stop.

If you would like more information on thumb sucking, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Thumb Sucking in Children” and “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”

By Central Florida Cosmetic & Family Dentistry
February 02, 2016
Category: Oral Health
Tags: thumb sucking  
ThumbSuckingOneofManyFactorstoConsiderWhenTreatingaPoorBite

It’s true — thumb sucking beyond age 4 can cause bite problems for permanent teeth. But prolonged thumb sucking is just one of a number of possible contributing factors for a bad bite (malocclusion). A dentist must identify all the factors involved when a bad bite is present — their involvement is essential for a successful treatment outcome.

A fairly benign habit for infants and toddlers, thumb sucking is related to an “infantile swallowing pattern” young children use by thrusting their tongues forward between the upper and lower teeth when they swallow. Around age 4, though, they usually transition to an adult swallowing pattern in which the tongue rests on the roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth. Thumb sucking stops for most children around the same time.

Thumb sucking beyond this age, though, can put increased pressure on incoming permanent teeth pushing them forward. This could lead to an “open bite” in which the upper and lower teeth don’t meet when the jaws are closed. The tongue may also continue to thrust forward when swallowing to seal the resulting gap, which further reinforces the open bite.

Before treating the bite with braces, we must first address the thumb sucking and improper tongue placement when swallowing — if either isn’t corrected the teeth could gradually revert to their previous positions after the braces come off. Besides behavioral incentives, we can also employ a thin metal appliance called a “tongue crib” placed behind the upper and lower incisors. A tongue crib discourages thumb sucking and makes it more difficult for the tongue to rest within the open bite gap when swallowing, which helps retrain it to a more normal position.

An open bite can also occur if the jaws develop with too much vertical growth. Like thumb sucking and improper tongue placement, abnormal jaw growth could ultimately cause orthodontic treatment to fail. In this case, though, surgery may be necessary to correct the jaw structure.

With all these possible variables, our first step needs to be a thorough orthodontic exam that identifies all the cause factors for your child’s specific malocclusion. Knowing if and how thumb sucking may have contributed to the poor bite will help us design a treatment strategy that’s successful.

If you would like more information on the causes of poor tooth position, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”

By Central Florida Cosmetic & Family Dentistry
March 21, 2014
Category: Oral Health
TreatingThumbSuckingNowCouldReduceOrthodonticTreatmentLater

One of the most common parental concerns is the habit of many children, even late into childhood, to suck their thumbs or fingers. Many parents have asked us, “Could this affect their teeth?”

The answer, unfortunately, is yes — thumb sucking can contribute to a malocclusion (bad bite) that could eventually require orthodontic treatment. Before making any assumptions, however, we need to understand the bigger picture.

To begin with, infants have a different swallowing mechanism than adults and older children. When you as an adult swallow, you'll notice the tip of your tongue positions itself just above the back of the top front teeth. An infant, however, will thrust their tongue between their upper and lower jaw as they swallow (also known as an infantile swallowing pattern or primary tongue thrust). The infant normally begins changing to an adult swallowing pattern when their primary (baby) teeth begin to erupt.

However, if a child's swallowing transition is slower than normal and the tongue rests between the jaws for a longer duration, it can inhibit the full eruption of teeth, believed to be the main cause of an open bite (a gap between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are shut). The thumb during sucking resting between the teeth can have the same effect.

Thumb sucking may not necessarily lead to a malocclusion — for example, an abnormally developing jawbone could be the culprit. If prolonged thumb sucking does become a concern, however, there are steps we can take to reduce the impact of the habit. We can install a thin metal “tongue crib” behind the upper and lower incisors that will not only discourage thumb sucking, but also help retrain the tongue not to rest between the upper and lower teeth. There are also exercise routines known as orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT) that can retrain specific muscles in the mouth to encourage more normal chewing and swallowing patterns.

These steps may not prevent future orthodontic treatment, but they could reduce its extent. The key is regular dental checkups and consultation to ensure your child's teeth and bite are developing normally.

If you would like more information on the effects of chronic thumb sucking on the mouth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”

By Central Florida Cosmetic & Family Dentistry
March 07, 2013
Category: Oral Health
TestingyourKnowledgeontheFactsandMythsofThumbSucking

For many children, thumb sucking is a great source of comfort. However, for some parents, it sets off potential red flags. See how much you really know about thumb sucking by taking our quick and easy true/false self test.

  1. Thumb or finger sucking is a totally normal behavior for babies and young children that should not cause any concerns for parents or caregivers.
    True or False
  2. One of the main reasons babies and young children suck their thumbs or fingers is that it provides a sense of security.
    True or False
  3. Sonograms have revealed that some babies actually begin sucking their fingers or thumbs in their mother's womb, before they are even born.
    True or False
  4. Recent research has shown that children using a pacifier after the age of four may cause long-term changes in the mouth.
    True or False
  5. Most children who suck their fingers or thumb tend to stop this habit on their own between the ages of two and four.
    True or False
  6. One of the biggest myths about thumb sucking is that it can cause buck teeth (the teeth tip outwards towards the lips).
    True or False
  7. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children stop using a pacifier and/or thumb or finger sucking by the age of three; however some recent studies suggest that this should stop as early as 18 months of age.
    True or False
  8. Breaking a pacifier habit is often much more difficult to break than a finger or thumb sucking habit.
    True or False
  9. Dipping a pacifier, finger or thumb in vinegar is a recommended way of stopping the habit.
    True or False
  10. For the most challenging cases, we may suggest that your child needs a mouth appliance that a blocks sucking habits.
    True or False

Answers: 1) False. While it is a totally natural habit, parents and caregivers should monitor thumb or finger sucking. 2) True. 3) True. 4) False. It is not age 4, but rather age 2. 5) True. 6) False. This is NOT a myth but rather a fact. 7) True. 8) False. It is easier. 9) True. 10) True.

If you are having trouble getting your child to stop using a pacifier, thumb or finger sucking habit, we are an excellent resource for working with you and your child to accomplish this goal. To learn more on this topic, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Thumb Sucking in Children.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions.

By Central Florida Cosmetic & Family Dentistry
October 09, 2011
Category: Oral Health

If you asked a room full of parents about their opinions on thumb sucking and pacifiers, the odds are good that you would get a wide variety of opinions. The truth is that this habit is a perfectly normal behavior in babies and young children; however, it is something that parents and caregivers should monitor. This is why we want to share a few basic myths and facts to set the record straight.

So how early does thumb sucking start?
It is interesting to note that thumb sucking for some babies actually starts before birth. This fact is proven quite often when expectant mothers “see” their unborn child sucking fingers or a thumb during a routine mid to later term sonogram. Sucking for babies is absolutely normal; it provides them with a sense of security. It is also a way they test, make contact and learn about their world.

At what age should a parent be concerned if their child still sucks a pacifier, finger or a thumb?
Recent studies have shown that if a sucking habit continues after the age of two, there may be some long-term changes in the mouth that have can have a negative impact on jaw development and/or with the upper front teeth. (It can cause these upper front teeth to become “bucked” or protrude forward towards the lips.) The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents and caregivers encourage children to cease this habit by about age three.

Do children ever stop this habit on their own?
Absolutely! If left alone, many children will naturally stop sucking their fingers or thumb between the ages of two and four. The main points to remember are that sucking habits are totally natural and should stop on their own. You should not make it a problem unnecessarily. If, however, your child is getting older and still seems dependant upon this habit, feel free to contact us today to schedule an appointment for your child or to discuss your specific questions about pacifiers and finger or thumb sucking. You can also learn more about this topic by continuing to read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Thumb Sucking in Children.”