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What is a Thumb and Finger Appliance?
A thumb and finger appliance could be the solution if your child sucks their thumb. Children suck their thumbs mainly as a way to soothe themselves. This mindless activity might seem harmless at first, but continued finger and thumb sucking can lead to all kinds of oral health problems later in life.
The effects of prolonged thumb sucking
When a child continues to habitually suck on their thumb as adult teeth start to come in, the growth pattern of the jaw is compromised. With a constant object in the path of their growth, secondary teeth can come in severely misaligned. New teeth begin to protrude outward, causing an unsightly overbite and crooked front teeth.
Sucking on fingers is a completely instinctive action for babies and toddlers. The habit usually resolves on its own between the ages of two and four years. Once the habit progresses into childhood, it can become a harmful habit. The pressure from the finger will start to push the incoming teeth out of their natural place and stunt jawbone development.
The jaw of a child is going through constant changes. The bone is malleable at this point, growing rapidly. Since the jawbone is soft, with sustained pressure applied even a finger or thumb can seriously deform it. This is a very fragile time for the development of the teeth and jaw, and a thumb sucking habit throws a wrench into the system.
After sucking on a thumb for a long period of time, the top front teeth begin to flare outward and the bottom front teeth move backward. This can cause the upper jaw to thrust forward while the lower jaw is stunted. The result is a pronounced crossbite and failure of the front teeth to close together properly. Until corrected, this misaligned bite makes eating very difficult.
The purpose of thumb and finger appliances is to solve thumb sucking before these issues become irreversible.
What is a thumb and finger appliance?
Also known as a habit appliance, these devices are made from semicircular metal wires which form a crib on the palate. It fits in the mouth like a retainer. This device can be fitted by a family dentist.
How do they work?
These appliances work by limiting thumb contact with the roof of the mouth. When the crib is in the way, the child is unable to use a sucking motion. The desire to suck fingers is then lessened and the habit begins to disappear.
Another common habit for young children is the inclination to thrust the tongue toward the teeth. This is an instinctual action for infants who are feeding, as tongue thrusting is necessary for swallowing at this stage of life. This habit can cause similar issues to thumb sucking.
Thankfully, thumb and finger devices can remedy both of these issues. Getting the device fitted is simple and can be done by your local dentist. Once the appliance is fitted, some see results in less than a week. The dentist can then remove the appliance once the parent and dentist agree that the problem has been fixed.
Contact a dental professional for more information about thumb sucking and see if a finger appliance is right for you. You could prevent the harmful effects of thumb sucking quickly and easily.
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