General Dental Informtion

Thumb sucking

thumb sucking

Thumb sucking can occur on children and adults and it could be caused by psychological factors or distance between the teeth and the jaws. Children and people who breathe through the mouth for various reasons suffer from disorders such as maxillary atrophy and maxillofacial disorders. Hence, the patient unconsciously enters their finger in the distance to fill it.

In addition to its unseemly appearance, thumb sucking has terrible physical and psychological consequences, especially in children. Therefore, if you or your child have a thumb sucking habit, try to break it and seek treatment. Sucking on thumb, tongue, nail biting and other bad habits will have similar consequences.

baby finger sucking

The Dental Damages of Thumb Sucking

If you talk to experienced orthodontist, they will tell you that they have encountered multiple cases of maxillofacial disorders caused by thumb sucking. Due to their soft and flexible bones, children are more susceptible to the dental damages of thumb sucking.

There are two damage processes. In the first group, children suck their thumb and put an outward pressure to the upper teeth and push the lower teeth back. In this condition, the distance between the mandible and maxilla is increased, causing open bite. In open bite, there is a distance between the upper and lower rows of teeth, such that at the exact point where the finger is sucked, the two rows are no longer placed on top of each other. At the same time, the thumb-sucking pressure is imposed to the lower teeth. The lower teeth are thus pushed back, causing overjet.

Another disorder that occurs as a result of thumb sucking is the decreasing space of the palate. The palate is often more spacious than the lower jaw, but as the thumb sucking habit is prolonged, the palate space gets smaller and the dental arch becomes abnormal. Therefore, the maxilla gets tighter and as the dental arch gets smaller, the tooth crowding and spacing disorder will also occur.

Thumb sucking has the following effects:

  • Open bite
  • Increased overjet
  • Maxillofacial disorders and the separation of two jaws
  • Teeth crowding and spacing
  • Small upper jaw

chewing on hand side effects

Treating Thumb Sucking in Children and Adults

The destructive habit of thumb sucking often has a psychological root, but specialists in dentistry and orthodontics present suggestions. For treating more severe cases of thumb sucking, one can seek help from a psychologist.

Psychologists believe that you shouldn’t force children to break their thumb sucking habit until 4 to 5 years of age. Otherwise, the child could be seriously psychologically harmed. What should, however, be done afterwards? First, simply talk to your child and inform them that this is not an appropriate behavior so they try to stop doing so. Refer to an orthodontic specialist if you were unable to convince your child. In most cases, the children accept the orthodontist’s arguments and break their thumb sucking habit.

If you didn’t achieve the desired results, the orthodontics specialist will give your child a small oral appliance. Every time your child puts their hand in their mouth, their finger will touch the orthodontic appliance’s wires, causing them to take their hand out. This appliance is prescribed for children above 5. You can prevent the effects of thumb sucking and treat the disorders caused by it with regular visits from 5 to 8 years of age at a low cost and only using a simple orthodontic appliance.

Treatment of thumb sucking complications

A successful orthodontic treatment is based on finding the reason for the disorder’s incidence. If the orthodontic specialist finds the precise cause of the disorder and treats it, the disorder would definitely not retreat. The orthodontic treatment of children afflicted by thumb sucking and treating its effects in younger ages takes 1 to 1.5 years. The problem is easily treatable with a simple orthodontic appliance, but the treatment time increases for adults, and a surgery is required for definitive treatment.

About Dr Abdolreza Jamilian Orthodontist

Dr. Jamilian, an orthodontist, has a specialized fellowship in orthodontic surgery and maxillofacial abnormalities and is a full-time professor in the orthodontics department of the Dentistry School of the Islamic Azad University. He is member of Iranian and European Board of Orthodontics (EBO) and is a member of the Iranian, American and European Orthodontists Association.

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