If your child has a habit of sucking their thumb, fingers, pacifiers, lips or tongue, he or she may be causing unconscious damage to the oral structure of the mouth.  According to the American Dental Association, most children stop thumb sucking on their own between the ages of two and four by simply outgrowing it.  However, some children continue beyond preschool.

If the habit persists when his or her permanent teeth start to erupt, you’ll want to actively work on breaking the habit.  Extended sucking affects both the teeth and jaws including the shape of the face — and may lead to a need for orthodontic treatment in the future.  Abnormalities could include an improperly shaped mouth, protruding teeth, and bite shifting.

Our Empathetic Approach at Park Smiles NYC Pediatrics

Traditional counseling methods and positive reinforcement strategies are commonly used to combat these problems, but they aren’t always successful alone.  At Park Smiles NYC Pediatrics, we take an empathetic approach that combines positive encouragement and custom-designed oral appliances when traditional methods haven’t worked.

Types of Oral Habit Appliances

Several techniques are available that attach a mechanical device by wires to rear molars, extending to the front of the mouth. These devices work behind the upper front teeth at the roof of the mouth to disrupt the pleasure of sucking on the thumb.

  • Hay rake. This device has short prongs in the middle, just behind the front teeth, intended to cause discomfort when the thumb or finger are inserted.
  • Crib tongue or palatal: Similar to the hay rake, it uses a set of metal rings or bars behind the upper front teeth, also to disrupt the pleasure of sucking the thumb/finger – in addition to tongue thrusting.
  • Blue Grass. Invented in Kentucky (hence the name), this appliance is for a thumb or finger sucking habit. It’s the easiest to wear and tolerate and usually for patients that are ready to quit, but need a reminder.
  • Lip Bumper. Recommended for young patients who suck or bite their lower lip.

Always remember that a child needs support and understanding during the process of breaking the habit. It’s important to never make him or her feel bad or embarrassed by their habit.  At Park Smiles NYC Pediatrics, we always offer positive encouragement to help our young patients feel empowered and in control.  We’ve found that this approach, in conjunction with an appliance when necessary, is the best way to help beat the potentially harmful habit.

Call Us!

For the best of the best in Comprehensive Pediatric Dental Care in New York City, call Park Smiles NYC Pediatrics today at 212-988-6727.  We look forward to serving you with an unsurpassed commitment to comfort, compassion and empathetic care!