Thumb sucking is a damaging habit that can cause tooth and surrounding skeletal structures to develop abnormally as your child grows. If your child has a persistent thumb sucking problem past the age of four to five, thumb and finger appliances, or thumb sucking appliances, can help your child stop this habit.
There are a variety of appliances available, each one different from the other, and they all do the same thing: they prevent your child from placing their thumb into their mouth. Over time and with consistent wear, your child’s thumb sucking days will be over.
Types of Thumb Sucking Appliances
There are five types of thumb sucking appliances available to your child. Choosing one just depends on the severity of the habit and what will work best for your child. These types include:
- A removable appliance can be removed and replaced in the mouth at any time. This appliance will only work if your child constantly wears it as instructed. A child who does not want to stop their thumb sucking habit will more than likely remove the appliance often. Because of this, the success rate of removable thumb sucking appliances is quite low. However, a great advantage to this type of appliance is that it can be removed before eating and thorough cleaning of the teeth and gums can continue without it inserted.
- A fixed appliance cannot be removed from the mouth at will. Thumb suckers will have no choice but to break their habit. However, since they cannot be removed, eating, speaking, and thoroughly cleaning your child’s teeth and gums will be a little more challenging.
- A thumb crib uses a sort of cage or fence that rests just below the roof of your child’s mouth. Thumb crib appliances work by preventing the pressure and sucking sensation at the roof of the mouth. Without the comforting stimulus that comes with thumb sucking, the habit is deemed useless by the wearer over time.
- A bluegrass appliance involves a roller, which is placed at the front half of the roof of the mouth. Instead of sucking their thumb, your child is given the alternative of turning the roller over with their tongue. This device is based around positive reinforcement and is less aggressive. It can be placed in children as young as six or seven years old.
How long should my child use this device?
The appliance can be used to break a thumb sucking habit until it stops altogether, but it also needs additional use after the habit breaks. This is to ensure that the habit does not promptly return. Typically, for children with mild to moderate thumb-sucking habits, it is worn for around three to six months. A persistent thumb sucker may need to use the appliance for a year.
Benefits of Thumb Sucking Appliances
More than just breaking the habit of your child sucking their thumb, there are other great benefits to using this appliance.
- Allows proper development of the upper jaw and front teeth: Thumb sucking constricts the upper arch, flares the upper teeth, and tips the lower teeth back.
- Increased confidence and self-esteem: Thumb suckers are often embarrassed of the act of thumb sucking and of the physical changes it does to their teeth and bite.
- Easier to speak and eat: The changes in the position of a thumb sucker’s teeth make it challenging to speak and bite into food. Your child may be self-conscious about smiling, speaking, and eating in public.