Early orthodontics Treatments for children: thumb sucking habit cessation

On our Early orthodontics page we have discussed various types of treatments that can help your child if his jaw is still growing.

Types of early orthodontic treatments are:

  1. Expansion
  2. Thumb sucking habit cessation
  3. Interceptive extractions
  4. Growth modification (Functional/ myofunctional braces)

In this blog post, Dr. Amina will talk about thumb sucking habit cessation.

Thumb/digit sucking habits, also known as non-nutritive sucking habits (NNSH), are common in children aged 0-5 years old (75%). Most children will outgrow their habit by the time they are 7 years old. However, research states that 12% of children will continue NNSH after 7 years old.

Why do children develop these habits?

  1. Comfort and security
  2. Learned behaviours

What happens if my child’s habit continues beyond 7 years old?

The good news is if the habit is stopped before 10 years old, in most cases any unwanted effects on the bite or teeth with improve.

If the habit continues past 10 years old, then the following changes are often seen – left untreated these can become permanent:

  • Protruding front teeth
  • Anterior open bite
  • Cross bites
  • Narrow smile

These are also warning signs that the habit is affecting your child’s dentition — so its worth watching for these!

How will an orthodontist manage my child’s habit?

Based on high-quality scientific research the two best techniques proven to stop a habit are:

  1. Counselling
  2. Habit breakers/ Expander braces

Often if your child has a digit sucking habit past 7 years, your orthodontist will recommend some form of interceptive treatment. These include:

  1. Counselling – gentle chat and encouragement
  2. Reminders/ Physical barriers e.g. Thumb guards, mittens and socks
  3. Habit breakers: these can be fixed or removable and are designed to not be traumatic. They disrupt the sensation of the habit and as a result, the child is more likely to stop
  4. Expander braces: These will disrupt the habit but simultaneously expand the upper jaw and correct the narrowness caused by the habit.

Want to know more about how we create healthy, happy and cavity-free smiles? Pop into the practice for a tour, or call us on 020 7078 0822 to arrange a consultation!

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