Our child's addiction -a $7000 habit part 2

Our son was a long term, vigorous thumb and finger sucker.

When we initially created our thumb guards, we did so to help our own children stop thumb-sucking. Particularly, the sucking habits of our youngest son had become concerning to both ourselves and our dentist. Regular dental check-ups had revealed that his upper teeth were starting to protrude forward, notably altering the profile of his face. By the time he was eight years old, even with the back teeth clenched there was a sizeable gap between his upper and lower front teeth.

Our son's strong thumb-sucking habit, having continued way beyond his fifth year, was gradually altering his jawline and misaligning his teeth. Our dentist referred to this condition as a malocclusion, also associated with the term ‘bucked teeth’. In our case however, our son was developing both an overbite and an overjet.

The initial advice we received may not have been the best

Nonetheless, despite experiencing several issues associated with having an overbite, such as difficulties with speech and chewing food, our dentist advised delaying corrective treatment until all of our son's baby teeth had come out. This, we have since discovered may not have been the best advice for our son as both of his jaw bones were at that point misaligned. This meant that not only were his baby teeth incorrectly positioned but his adult teeth also cut through incorrectly.

We eventually moved across the globe to New Zealand, which meant a new dentist too. By this stage, however, although we had managed to stop our son's sucking habit, the damage to his teeth position and jaw was immense. Waiting for the last baby teeth to come out was indeed now the best option but there was also the risk that his adult teeth might be much harder to re-align.


Step 1 -the x-rays 

Fast forward two years and we have finally been able to start along the path to correcting our son's dental issues. Two weeks ago a series of photographs and x-rays were taken of our son's teeth and jaw. As is the case in many countries, these are not free. For those who are trying to plan the cost of treatment for their own children, we were presented with a bill for a little under $400 NZD for these. The results are now in and whilst we knew his sucking habit had caused some serious problems for his teeth, we were shocked by the severity of these. Our son's upper front teeth are lying almost at a horizontal angle!


The Orthodontists report

The main problems noted by the orthodontist were:

• His lower jaw appears to be relatively small compared to the upper jaw. This issue was likely created because of his long-term, frequent sucking of fingers and thumb which applied pressure against his chin. This prevented his lower jaw from coming forward and growing correctly. This then negatively affected his facial profile.

• His upper front teeth bite too far in front of the lower front teeth. This is known as an ‘increased overjet’. An increased overjet is the term used when the upper front teeth are positioned a long way forward of the lower front teeth. There is little doubt that this developed because the teeth and jaw were so frequently wrapped around a thumb or finger.

• The upper front teeth bite too far over the lower front teeth. This is known as an ‘increased overbite’. In our son's case, this means that when he closes his mouth, his lower front teeth can touch the roof of his mouth and are hidden behind the upper teeth.

• There is severe spacing of the upper teeth. Again this is likely due to the altered shape and position of his jaw due to thumb sucking.

• There is moderate crowding of his lower teeth

• The upper and lower midlines do not match. This has impacted his backbite because his upper back teeth do not meet with their corresponding lower teeth. This also means his rear teeth now slant inwards, known as a crossbite.

• His upper incisors are very proclined, meaning they are angled forwards

• He also has an over-retained baby tooth


The featured image is our son!

The x-ray illustration above is the actual one taken of our son's teeth. We have included this to illustrate that whilst thumb sucking is generally harmless in babies and toddlers, prolonged thumb or finger sucking habits in older children have the potential to cause serious dental issues. For our boy, there is every likelihood that braces alone will not be able to correct his jaw. He may also require surgery.

We make thumb guards in the hope that we can help other children avoid the issues now faced by our child.

In my next post, I will discuss in more detail the treatment plan for my son.

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