Thumb Sucking Elimination
Thumb sucking, finger sucking, nail biting, blanket sucking and tongue sucking can be detrimental to oral health depending on the frequency and intensity of the habit. While these oral habits appear normal, they may cause changes to normal oral development. Prolonged or extended oral habits can lead to changes in swallowing, speech, and dental positioning. These changes often have long term negative effects including, impacts to appearance, verbal social interaction and self confidence. Correcting these effects later in life can be very challenging and often requires speech therapy and/or orthodontics at a very high cost.
Effects of Thumb Sucking
A tongue thrust or a “reversed swallow” often occurs with prolonged thumb sucking because the tongue position has been trained to be resting in a low forward manner while thumb sucking, at rest, and during the swallow. With a tongue thrust swallow, the tongue projects forward and pushes against or through the front teeth. In a normal swallow the tongue tip presses up against the roof of the mouth.
Long term thumb sucking can change the shape of the mouth, placing the child at risk for speech disorders. The most common speech disorders are lisped sounds, in which the tongue is incorrectly placed between the teeth instead of behind the upper teeth. Secondly, a tongue thrust, which often occurs with thumb sucking, also distorts speech sounds that require up and back tongue movement.
Prolonged thumb sucking can lead to dental challenges such as an anterior open bite, posterior cross bite, over bite and an overjet; which are costly dental impairments to correct. External pressure of the thumb can change the position of the teeth and the shape of the jaw, which negatively effect both appearance and function.
The key to avoiding these long term and potentially costly issues is early intervention. Ideally this intervention should begin around age four or five, as habits are easier to eliminate at this age.
The goal of the habit cessation program is to build the confidence of the child while at the same time terminating the negative habits. This treatment uses positive behavior modification in which an unpleasant action is terminated with use of positive and negative reinforcement.
The treatment is a thirty day program that provides education to parents and family members in order to successfully implement the program within their home to best support the client. The therapist is available to provide assistance throughout treatment.
The key to solving extended oral habits and avoiding long term negative effects is early intervention paired with a defined cessation program. When implemented appropriately this program has been successful in boosting a child’s confidence and successfully avoiding recurrence.