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  • Writer's pictureDr Changjie Guo

Thumb sucking and orthodontics

Sucking on a thumb or finger is a natural reflex for children. It's soothing, and makes babies feel secure and happy and help them learn about their world. But can cause problems if it continues. Most children stop somewhere between two and three years of age. If sucking habits go on much past the age of three, however, it's possible that bite problems may arise, such as overbite and open bite.

If children seem unable to stop thumb sucking, positive reinforcements (praise & reward) tend to work better than negative (e.g., putting a bitter substance on the thumb). In severe or extreme cases, removable or fixed orthodontic devices can be used to disrupt the ability of a child to thumb suck.

This case showed how thumb sucking could change the bite, how easily a sticking out tooth could be damaged, how to get rid of thumb sucking and how to fix the crooked teeth.

This child was still sucking his thumb when he was 12. Some top front teeth were pushed out because of this habit. One of these protruded teeth was knocked because it stuck out. Luckily the nerve was not involved, and no root canal treatment was needed.

To fix the crooked teeth, the thumb sucking habit needed to be removed first. After trying some conservative ways, a fixed appliance (palatal crib appliance) was used to get rid of the habit. Then orthodontic treatment (braces on top arch only) was performed to make the teeth straight.


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