Thumb & Finger Appliances

Online Dental Education Library

Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.


Teeth Whitening - Dear Doctor Magazine Teeth Whitening - Brighter, whiter...
The subconscious impact of a white smile is radiant health, happiness, warmth and invitation. This phenomenon has been reinforced with the spread of American culture worldwide, where an especially white smile has even been coined a "Hollywood smile". Today brighter, lighter, whiter teeth have become a norm. Tooth whitening by bleaching is a successful, conservative, relatively inexpensive and safe alternative... Read Article

 

Porcelain Veneers - Dear Doctor Magazine Smile Design with Porcelain Veneers
In part two of the series on Smile Design, Dear Doctor takes an in-depth look at Porcelain Veneers, a superior yet minimally invasive technique for smile enhancement. We'll explain not only when they're appropriate, but also when they're not... Read Article

 

No-prep Procelain Veneers - Dear Doctor Porcelain Veneers – Without A Drill
No drilling — reality or ridiculous? A no-drill technique requires a second look, as new materials and concepts have created new esthetic possibilities. Reactions and opinions among dentists have ranged from absolute disbelief to moderate acceptance. This article gives hope and reasons for patients to get excited about this conservative drill-free cosmetic technique... Read Article

 

Cosmetic Dentistry - Dear Doctor Magazine Cosmetic Dentistry - A Time For Change
Join us as we review the myriad of possibilities available to you for cosmetic dental change. But the biggest part is not just how your smile looks, it's how you feel when you show it... Read Article

 

Dental Implants - Dear Doctor Magazine Dental Implants - Your Third Set of Teeth
A discovery fifty years ago paved the way for one of dentistry's most exciting, natural looking and successful tooth replacement systems. Learn how dental implants might just possibly change your life... Read Article

 

Tooth Decay - Dear Doctor Magazine What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth Decay is an infection, and many people don't realize that it is preventable. This article is the first in a series about tooth decay, perhaps the number one reason children and adults lose teeth during their lifetime. Explore the causes of tooth decay, its prevention and the relationship to bacteria, sugars and acids... Read Article

 

Tooth Decay – Dear Doctor Magazine Tooth Decay
Don't wait for cavities to occur and then have them fixed — stop them before they start. Modern dentistry is moving towards an approach to managing tooth decay that is evidence-based — on years of accumulated, systematic, and valid scientific research. This article discusses what you need to know to assess your risk and change the conditions that lead to decay... Read Article

 

Tooth Colored Fillings - Dear Doctor Magazine The Beauty of Tooth Colored Fillings
The public's demand for aesthetic tooth colored (metal free) restorations (fillings) together with the dental profession's desire to preserve as much natural tooth structure as possible, has led to the development of special "adhesive" tooth colored restorations... Read Article

 

Wisdom Teeth – Dear Doctor Magazine Wisdom Teeth – To Be Or Not To Be
Facts you need to know about these curiously named teeth. They are so-called because a moderate amount of wisdom is supposedly achieved at about the same time these teeth typically make their appearance. This article will review the problems associated with wisdom teeth and whether or not they should be removed... Read Article

 

Oral Hygiene - Dear Doctor Magazine Oral Hygiene - Dental Health for Life
The best tools for maintaining your oral health and minimizing dental problems are a quality toothbrush, toothpaste, a roll of dental floss, approved mouthwash and good diet. This article cuts through the confusion with a winning game plan for oral health... Read Article

 

Periodontal (Gum) Disease - Dear Doctor Magazine Understanding Gum Disease
Have your gums ever bled when you brushed or flossed? This most commonly overlooked simple sign may be the start of silent (periodontal) disease leading to tooth loss. Learn what you can do to prevent this problem and keep your teeth for life... Read Article

 

Smile Makeover - Dear Doctor Magazine The Impact of a Smile Makeover
Americans are catching on to the emotional and social importance of a healthy, beautiful smile, and they're seeking out ways to improve their smiles. Learn why and what a change could mean for you...Read Article

 

Root Canal - Dear Doctor Magazine “I'd Rather Have a Root Canal...”
A common misconception is demystified. Get the real story about this much maligned procedure that eases pain, rather than causes it... Read Article

 

Invisalign - Dear Doctor Magazine Invisalign Orthodontics
The orthodontic treatment using clear aligners consists of a series of aligners that you change about every two weeks over a course of treatment lasting six to eighteen months depending on how much movement is needed... Read Article

 

Oral Cancer - Dear Doctor Magazine Oral Cancer
This article may just save your life. Learn how to notice any unusual lesions (sores or ulcers) anywhere in your mouth that do not heal within two-three weeks. Early detection is key... Read Article

 

Implant Overdentures - Dear Doctor Magazine Implant Overdentures
Implant overdentures represent a major change for the dental profession and the public. The lower jaw two-implant overdenture may be considered a more appropriate starting point over regular dentures... Read Article

 

TMD - TMJ - Dear Doctor Magazine TMD – The Great Impostor
This “chameleon” of dental disorders manifests in a variety of ways, including joint pain, sinusitus, ear pain, tooth and headaches. The causes of TMD, its signs and symptoms and what can be done to treat this common disorder... Read Article

 

Laser Dentistry - Dear Doctor Magazine Lasers Shine a Light on Dentistry
Lasers have revolutionized medicine and now they're beginning to blaze a new trail in dentistry. Today, at the dawn of the 21st century there are a variety of dental uses for lasers, from diagnosing cavities and the removal of gum and tooth structure to the treatment of disease... Read Article

 

Sedation Dentistry - Dear Doctor Magazine Oral Sedation Dentistry
Step out from under the shadow of fear and into the calm of sedation dentistry. There are safe and time-tested options available to ensure that you have a positive and painless dental experience. Your apprehension and hypersensitivity to pain melt away, yet you remain awake and in control... Read Article

 

Snoring and Sleep Apnea - Dear Doctor Magazine Sleep Disorders and Dentistry
If my partner snores loudly, should I be concerned and what can be done to alleviate the problem? Why does my sleeping partner have lapses in breathing while sleeping and is it dangerous? Why do I wake up exhausted even though I get up to 10 hours sleep at night? The answers to these and more questions and how dentistry can help all revealed within... Read Article

 

About Dear Doctor Dentistry Magazine
Dear Doctor - Dentistry & Oral Health is a dental magazine written for the education of the general public. Dear Doctor provides information that is accurate, authoritative, and trustworthy on all aspects of dentistry and oral health including teeth whitening, porcelain veneers, dental implants, cosmetic dentistry, smile makeovers and more.

Copyright © 2012 Dear Doctor, Inc. All rights reserved. Copying or reproducing any text or graphics is strictly prohibited.

Child sucking thumb.

Is there any image that illustrates the comforts of babyhood better than a sleepy infant sucking his or her thumb? Ultrasound pictures have shown, to the joy of many prospective parents, that this behavior can even occur in the womb. The thumb- or finger-sucking habit seems to relax and comfort toddlers too, and it's perfectly natural. But as a child grows, there comes a point where this habit isn't just socially awkward — it may also be harmful to his or her oral health.

In most children, thumb sucking stops on its own between the ages of two and four years. But if the practice persists after the primary (baby) teeth have erupted, it can drastically change the growth patterns of the jaw, and cause significant misalignment of the teeth. It may be hard to believe that such a benign habit can actually move teeth and bone — but there are a number of reasons why this occurs.

Children's jaws, rich in blood supply and growing rapidly, are relatively soft and flexible — especially in kids under the age of 8. So it really isn't hard for the constant pressure of a thumb or finger to deform the soft bone around the upper and lower front teeth. Children who are particularly vigorous thumb suckers are even more likely to change the growth patterns of the teeth and jaws.

If the thumb sucking habit persists, it can result in the upper front teeth flaring out and the lower ones moving back and inward. It can also hold back the growth of the lower jaw, while causing the upper jaw to be thrust forward. This can result in misalignment of the teeth, an anterior open bite (where the front teeth fail to close together), collapse of the upper jaw causing crossbite, or other problems. That's why it is important to stop the behavior at an appropriate time, before damage occurs.

Controlling Thumb or Finger Sucking

Like many potentially harmful behavior patterns, thumb sucking can be a difficult habit to break. Through the years, parents have tried a variety of home remedies, such as having the child wear gloves, coating the digits with a bitter-tasting substance — and even reasoning with their toddlers. Sometimes it works — but in other cases, the allure of thumb sucking proves very difficult to control.

Fixed palatal crib.

If your child has a thumb or finger sucking habit that has persisted past the age of 3, and you've been unable to tame it, then it may be time for you to visit the dental office for a consultation. A “habit appliance” such as a fixed palatal crib or a removable device may be recommended for your child. This crib isn't for sleeping — it's a small metal appliance worn inside the mouth, attached to the upper teeth.

How does it work? The semicircular wires of a palatal crib keep the thumb or finger from touching the gums behind the front teeth. Simply preventing this contact seems to take all the enjoyment away from the thumb sucking habit — and without that pleasurable feedback, a child has no reason to continue the behavior. In fact, the device is often successful the first day it's worn.

Getting and Using a Habit Appliance

If your child could benefit from a habit appliance, the first step is to get a thorough examination, which may include taking x-rays, photographs and dental impressions. If it's recommended, a crib will then be custom-fabricated to fit your child's mouth, and placed at a subsequent appointment. Afterwards, your child will be periodically monitored until the appliance is removed — typically, a period of months.

Although wearing the crib isn't painful, your child may experience some soreness in the upper back teeth for a few hours after it's first installed. He or she may also have a little trouble falling asleep for a day or two afterward. Plenty of extra attention and TLC are usually all that's needed to make everything all right. While the appliance is being worn, it's best to avoid chewing gum and eating hard, sticky food that might cause it to come loose.

A Word About Tongue Thrusting

Like thumb sucking, tongue thrusting is a normal behavioral pattern in young children. It's actually part of the natural infantile swallowing pattern, which will normally change on its own — by the age of six, in most children. If the pattern doesn't change, however, it can lead to problems similar to those caused by thumb sucking: namely, problems with tooth alignment and skeletal development. Fortunately, this problem can be successfully treated with a habit appliance that's very similar to a fixed palatal crib.

Related Articles

Thumb Sucking - Dear Doctor Magazine

How Thumb Sucking Affects The Bite Thumb sucking can actually block the front teeth from erupting fully and can also push the teeth forward — sometimes more on the side where the thumb rested. How far out of position the teeth end up will depend on the number of hours per day the thumb was in the child's mouth and how much pressure was applied. When the pressure exerted by the thumb in the mouth is particularly strong and occurs over a long period of time, the forces can potentially influence growth of the jaws... Read Article