Oral habits such as finger- or thumb-sucking or tongue thrusting can lead to severe malocclusions if they are not corrected at an early age. At Lotus Dental, we provide a variety of oral appliances to aid in breaking these potentially damaging habits. They can also be used to help the jaw to grow into the correct alignment, correct crossbites, act as space-holders for permanent teeth, and be used as retainers.
Thumb-sucking is a common habit for many children. It is a method of self-soothing, and children find it pleasurable. Normally, the habit is dropped naturally, and children stop sucking their thumbs on their own, but others may need help breaking the habit. This is especially important to do before the permanent teeth erupt. Before any appliances or treatments are provided, the dentist will ensure the child, through positive counseling, that he or she should not feel embarrassed about their thumb-sucking habit, but alternative methods of self-soothing to replace that habit – that is better for oral development – may be suggested. Appliances to break finger- or thumb-sucking habits fit onto the molars and work either to block the thumb/finger or to inhibit the child’s ability to suck on the thumb/finger. They can range from less intrusive appliances that act as simple reminders to avoid thumb-sucking to more aggressive ones for more reluctant patients.
Tongue thrusting is often accompanied by a lisp, which is one example of how this dental habit can have unwanted side effects. Another is the development of an open bite, where the upper and lower teeth do not come together. This habit can be corrected by using an appliance called a tongue crib, which breaks the tongue thrusting pattern and helps to reestablish a healthier biting pattern.
If there is a gap in a child’s mouth, it is important to prevent irregular shifting and crowding of the remaining teeth as well as new teeth that come in. Space maintainers are appliances that hold the space in a child’s mouth to allow the adult tooth to come in. The dentist will keep an eye on any bite or jaw issues during regular check-ups in order to guide teeth in properly as they emerge. If necessary, early orthodontics may be discussed.