Long Term Thumb Sucking Harms Teeth
Although our youngest son did not suck his thumb from birth, by the time he was two years old his sucking habit was almost constant. He sucked both his thumb and fingers for much of the day and night.
I remember being mortified the first time our new dentist referred to the issue. She was quite a stern character. My son, who had recently turned seven, climbed into the dentist's chair and opened his mouth wide. The dentist gazed down at his teeth for a few seconds before fixing me with a very stern frown. “Does he suck on his thumb?” she asked, “he has a massive overbite”.
The First Orthodontist Visit
Several months later we were referred to an orthodontist who explained that because our son sucked his thumb and fingers so frequently, he had completely altered the shape of his palate and jaw. He explained that an overbite (also known as buck teeth) greater than 2mm is considered a cause for concern. But, alarmingly, our son's overbite measured a staggering 18 mm. Further to this, we were advised that corrective treatment was going to cost upwards of $7000.
Because our son continued to suck his thumb past five years of age, he has several problems with his teeth. His lower jaw has not grown forward as it should. His chin appears small and recessive. His upper front teeth bite too far in front of the lower front teeth and they are spaced irregularly. When our son closes his jaw, his lower teeth touch the roof of his mouth. He has great difficulty biting food and because his back teeth do not meet correctly, chewing food is also difficult. Our son’s speech has been affected because he is unable to make certain sounds correctly and his confidence is challenged due to his physical appearance.
The Thumb Guards
We initially created thumb guards to help our son stop thumb sucking. However, seeing their effectiveness we were keen to help other children break the habit too.
Our guards help deter children from sucking their thumb or fingers in two ways. First, the guards are a visual reminder to children not to suck. They also form a barrier between the thumb or fingers and the mouth roof. This reduces the comforting sensation typically gained from sucking.
The ideal time to encourage your child away from their long term sucking habit is between four and five years of age. At this age, children are unlikely to have their adult teeth cutting; plus, they are old enough to understand a simple explanation of why they should not suck their thumbs. None the less we do make thumb guards and finger guards for children and adults of all ages and abilities.
Today we offer a range of thumb guards, finger guards and guards that are a combination of the two. You will need to carefully measure your child's hand before purchasing a thumb or finger guard. If you need a thumb guard, measure from the end of the thumb to the lowest crease on the wrist.
If you are purchasing a finger guard or a combined thumb and finger guard, you will need to measure the most extended finger that will wear the guard. Again, measure from the very end of the finger to the lowest crease on the wrist.
Finally, you will also need to provide the wrist measurement. Please measure around the wrist fully. This distance is essential for the correct placement of the fastenings.
Wearing the Guards
It is essential to remember that our thumb guards are not restraints. For hygiene and safety reasons, we do not make thumb guards that are impossible for a child to remove.
Our guards have a choice of hook and loop, button, or stud (snap) fastening, enabling them to be worn/removed easily by your child. These guards are intended as an aid for your child to use independently. Please select the fastening most suited to your child's ability.
Laundry and Care
Because our thumb guards and finger guards can be washed and dried quickly, it is possible to break the thumb sucking habit with just one guard. However, we recommend at least two guards because children will often switch thumbs if their usual thumb of choice is covered.
Whenever there is a temptation to suck the thumb, encourage your child to wear the thumb guards. Reducing all opportunities to suck the thumb will speed up the process of ending the habit.
We do not recommend wearing thumb guards or finger guards in the sea or swimming pool as seawater and pool chemicals might damage the guards.
We strongly advise teaching children to remove the guards before using the toilet, washing, and eating meals for hygiene reasons.