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Why you need to stop a thumb sucking habit

Written by Dr. Chaw Su Kyi on January 16, 2018

Thumb Sucking

For some of us as parents and children, we know how difficult it is to stop ‘the habit’ i.e. thumb-sucking! It is probably one of the most common habits, and for the majority of us, we often stop in our early years. However, it is a hard habit to break and there are several ways and bribes that we have all given to our children.

Why stop thumb-sucking?

Open bite

If your child is still sucking their thumb once the permanent teeth have erupted, it can start to cause effects on the teeth. If the thumb is placed in the mouth for prolonged periods of time, the thumb itself is acting as a brace – pushing the upper front teeth forwards and the lower front teeth back. As the thumb is resting in-between the upper and lower teeth, it can also prevent the normal eruption of the anterior teeth, causing an open bite and the front teeth do not meet. If the habit is stopped early, the teeth can start to return to their normal positions as children are going through their growth and development.

How to stop thumb or finger sucking?

fixed with a small gate

As parents, we often start with rewards or little bribes to our children, but as we know this doesn’t always work. Often, the thumb is sucked for comfort, and anything to ‘break’ the comfort will aid in stopping the habit. We first have to start with the child – if he or she is determined to stop the habit, it will happen, but having a habit breaker will aid in the cessation of the habit.

All habit breakers work by acting as a reminder – letting your child know that ‘the thumb is in the mouth and to take it out’. There are varnishes which you can paint onto the nails which taste foul! If the thumb is sucked going off to sleep, we can consider wrapping the thumb in a bandage or using a sock as a glove – which again is not very comforting if trying to suck your thumb!

If these habit breakers do not work, as orthodontists, we commonly see and treat patients to help stop thumb-sucking, and often fit a type of brace to act as a habit-breaker. The brace is often fixed with a little ‘gate’ on the palate which acts as the ‘reminder’ to remove the thumb. Please see our website to view a video clip showing the fitting of a habit-breaker.

Stopping a thumb-sucking habit

the gate doesn't show

It is important that the digit sucking habit is stopped at a young age to allow the teeth to ‘recover’. If the habit is continued through to adolescence, it may have severe consequences on the developing dentition. Often brace treatment with fixed braces will be needed and possibly removing teeth to allow space for the teeth to be moved back into their correct alignment to attain a good overbite.

If you would like some advice on stopping a thumb-sucking habit, please ask your orthodontist at your next visit.

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