Thumb Sucking and Your Teeth

According to Wikipedia, “thumb sucking generally stops by the age of 5. Some older children will retain the habit which can cause severe dental problems.”

What is usually done at home?

Young thumb suckers frequently put up with a lot of harassment from their parents, which doesn’t really help the child. A few tactics to get them to stop are bandaging the thumb, putting a sock over the hand or placing some bad tasting material on the thumb. Sometimes these actions work, but not always.

What will a dentist do?

Dentistry has come up with a few barbaric looking options. The “hay-rake” appliance and the “palatal crib” appliance looks a bit like braces. A band is cemented around each upper first molar and a pronged piece of metal, attached to the bands, is put behind the front teeth. In this way the child can’t get his thumb too far into the mouth. These devices are worn for about 6 months.

A Better Development

An improvement on this is the “Bluegrass appliance” which was developed in Kentucky. The metal crib or prongs was replaced by Teflon rollers which stay off the palatal tissue, so it’s non-irritating. The child will roll the rollers with his tongue and there are not many complaints from the children, assuming they wanted to kick the habit. When the 6 months are over, the child usually doesn’t revert to the thumb sucking habit.

What if nothing is done?


Doing nothing will leave a difficult orthodontic situation to fix, with an open bite where the thumb can be placed.  Parents should consult with the child’s dentist and pediatrician to work out the best approach for their child.