Why Thumb Sucking Can Lead to Braces

thumb sucking leads to braces soleil orthodonticsBabies are so cute when they suck their thumbs. Even toddlers are sweet with their thumb in their mouth, soothing themselves to sleep without the need of a pacifier. Unfortunately, if you can’t wean your child off this habit or they don’t grow out of it in a few years it could have some undesirable consequences on their jaw growth and development that eventually require braces and other orthodontic interventions.

The Orthodontic Problem with Thumb Sucking

Thumb-sucking is normal. However, when the behavior carries on past the age of about 4 or is aggressive, there can be structural changes in the jaw that affect the alignment of the teeth. Pressure placed on the teeth, bone, and soft oral tissues during early childhood development can lead to:

  • Alignment issues
  • Protruding front teeth
  • Open bite
  • Overbite
  • Narrow upper jaw
  • Altered facial appearance

Sucking creates a vacuum in the mouth and the thumb causes forward pressure, especially on the top front teeth. If the thumb is pressed into the roof of the mouth, it can have a domino effect, altering the shape of the upper jaw, causing a lisp, and affecting alignment of the rest of the teeth.

Get Your Child to Stop Sucking Their Thumb

It is so important for kids to stop sucking their thumbs once their permanent teeth begin to erupt. Consistent pressure on the teeth from the thumb will move teeth in the wrong direction (just like pressure from braces move teeth in the right direction). There are several options to help a child break the habit:

  • Thumb sucking glove: Fun colors but discouraging textures on this one-finger glove or thumb guard help remind the wearer to stop before they pop it in.
  • Bitter taste solution: Bitter solutions used to stop nail biting can be applied to thumb to discourage that habit too.
  • Palatal crib: When at-home methods don’t work, this appliance physically alters the mouth surface so the same satisfaction isn’t gotten when the child puts their thumb in their mouth.
  • Positive reinforcement: A reward system can be very motivating for a young child, like a chart that earns a new sticker for every day your child doesn’t such his or her thumb and a bigger reward once they go one week, two weeks, a month, and more without giving in to the habit.

What’s In Your Thumb-Sucker’s Orthodontic Future?

Instead of your pre-teen getting braces in middle school or junior high, they may be looking at braces for kids and interceptive orthodontics many years earlier to take care of the damage caused by thumb-sucking. Palatal expanders or an early round of braces could be recommended to get the teeth and jaws in such a position that they will respond positively to a typical course of metal braces or Invisalign Teen when they get older.

If you’re concerned about an existing thumb-sucking habit, contact an orthodontist to discuss the circumstances, get suggestions to help your child stop the habit, and find out what kind of orthodontic future is in the cards. Gentle encouragement at home isn’t always enough to get that thumb out of the mouth – your orthodontist can advise. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Soleil Roberts at Soleil Orthodontics in Woodinville.

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