One of the habits a child can start that can have a dramatic effect on the growth of the upper and lower jaw is sucking on their fingers or thumb. An early finger/thumb habit can cause changes in the dimension of the upper jaw, create a large overbite and keep the teeth from erupting ( anterior open bite). If you look at the Anterior Open Bite picture, you will notice the front incisors are not touching when the child bites completely closed. An anterior open bite, if not corrected early, can become more permanent as the child grows, so early intervention is usually required. If you see your child start a thumb or finger habit, stop the child immediately or try to get the child to use a pacifier instead of their thumb/finger. The pacifier could create an anterior open bite but it is easier to get rid of the pacifier than the thumb or finger habit. Also the pacifier will not place forces that are generated by the thumb or fingers. However, remember, sometimes no matter what a parent tries to do, the child will start the finger/thumb habit anyway.
If we can stop the child from sucking their thumb or finger, the teeth will erupt and the anterior open bite will disappear slowly. In other words, the teeth will start to erupt the way they should have when the finger habit is stopped. Sometimes a child, when they start school will stop their habit because of peer pressure. Sometimes they do not. One of the appliances that an Orthodontist can use to break the thumb or finger sucking habit is a thumb habit appliance or thumb crib.
A thumb crib is a wire that is attached to the molars that is in the way and the child has a hard time using his thumb or finger. There is nothing that is sharp with the thumb habit appliance (thumb crib). It doesn’t hurt. It is just in the way. The majority of the time the thumb crib will be enough to stop the thumb habit. Once the child has stopped the habit then we leave it in place for three months before we remove the thumb crib. The thumb crib is a good appliance and should take care of the thumb habit.
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