Orthodontic Appliances to Prevent Thumb Sucking

Orthodontic Appliances to Prevent Thumb Sucking

Child Sucking Thumb
Long Beach, CA – Do you have a child who just can’t seem to give up his or her thumb sucking habit? At HD Orthodontics, we know it can be a hard habit to break, so we are here to help you.

The thumb sucking habit brings comfort to infants and small children. But if the habit continues once the permanent teeth begin to erupt, it can cause serious damage to the teeth and jaws, as we explained in our previous blog. When all of your best efforts to curb your child’s sucking habit have proven unsuccessful, our office is happy to help.

We can fit your child with a habit appliance, either what is known as a fixed palatal thumb crib or a removable device.

Hawley retainer thumb appliance

Hawley Retainer Thumb ApplianceSome children will benefit from a simple habit retainer similar to what patients wear after their braces are removed, but with added semicircular wires to discourage thumb sucking. For some children, we find that the removable plastic appliance changes the feeling of having the thumb in the mouth just enough that they stop the habit.

Thumb Crib

Thumb CribBut if your child is a more serious thumb sucker, a fixed appliance may be needed. A fixed palatal thumb crib is a small metal appliance that is placed inside the mouth and attached to the upper molars. A crib fabricated of soldered wires prevents the thumb from making contact with the gums behind the front teeth. In doing so, the appliance reduces the satisfaction your child has when sucking on his thumb, and over time, will stop the habit completely.

Bluegrass appliance

Bluegrass ApplianceIf your child doesn’t respond to the traditional palatal crib, there are alternative appliance designs which can be resorted to. Some of these include a bluegrass appliance and rake appliance. The bluegrass appliance uses a spinning roller to help break the patient’s habit and allow the anterior teeth to return to their normal position.

Rake Appliance

Rake ApplianceAlternatively, the rake appliance extends in such a way to poke the thumb and prevent it from resting in the child’s mouth. While not extremely sharp, it will cause discomfort if your child attempts to suck his thumb.

If your child is over the age of five or has permanent teeth beginning to erupt and still sucks his or her thumb, it’s important to schedule an exam with our office so we can determine if your child could benefit from an appliance. We’ll take an xray and photos so we can understand what the thumb sucking habit may be doing to the mouth. If an appliance is needed, we will do a digital scan of the teeth to create the custom-fitted appliance.

The appliance will then be delivered at the following appointment, which is typically a week later. We’ll continue to monitor your child over the next several months, and remove the appliance when we are sure the habit has stopped and your child won’t revert to it.

The crib isn’t painful to wear, but after we first place it, there may be some initial tenderness and a period of acclimatization for the child.

Because thumb sucking is often associated with feeling anxious, scared or tired, you may notice your child needs a bit of extra attention during the transition period. Offer extra TLC to ease your child into the idea of no longer sucking his or her thumb.

If you think your child may benefit from a habit-breaking appliance, schedule an appointment with HD Orthodontics today.