An oral habit may typically occur when a patient is sleeping, relaxed or needing comfort. These oral habits can become a problem if they are not stopped by a reasonable age.
Digit and Thumb Sucking
Most children stop sucking on their thumb, fingers or pacifiers on their own between the ages 2 and 4. Controlling the habit at an early age will allow the permanent teeth to come into healthier positions. After the age of four, thumb sucking can cause front teeth to protrude forward, teeth to be unable to clench together properly, or a lisp.
Braces or a retainer may be required to correct the oral problems created by prolonged thumb sucking. To avoid having to spend unnecessary time and money at the orthodontist’s office, try to help your child break their thumb-sucking habit if it continues past the age of five.
Suggestions to break the habit:
- Wait until the time is right (low stress).
- Motivate your child (show examples of what could happen to their teeth and fingers/thumbs).
- Use a reward system (small incentives will encourage your child to stick with it). See our resources page.
- Mavala Stop – bitter yet harmless tasting polish to be brushed on the child’s finger nail
- NIPIT hand stopper – brace for the elbow to prevent the thumb from reach the mouth
- TGuard – blocks the thumb therefore preventing sucking
*Mavala Stop, NIPIT Hand Stopper and Guard are each available on Amazon.com
If your child cannot stop the habit using the above tactics, we can evaluate them for a habit appliance. The appliance is specifically designed to help remind the child to not put their thumb and/or fingers in their mouth. Controlling the habit at the right age will allow the permanent teeth to come into a healthier position.
How long will my child wear their habit appliance?
This will depend on the severity of the original problem and how quickly the habit corrects. The faster the correction, the shorter time period the appliance will be worn. Typically, the appliance will remain in the mouth 2-3 months beyond the elimination of the habit to assure total modification of the behavior.
How do I care for the habit appliance?
The appliance is strong and sturdy but should not be played or picked at by the child. Hard, sticky, or brittle foods may damage or destroy the appliance and should be avoided during the duration of wear. Teeth should be brushed and flossed in the usual manner.