Orthodontic Treatment for Thumb Sucking Habit

Orthodontic Treatment for Thumb Sucking Habit
Posted on 06/20/2018
Orthodontic Correction

Orthodontic Treatment for Thumb Sucking Habit

As an orthodontist the most common treatment I chestnut dental thumb sucking treatmentprovide is braces or Invisalign to straighten teeth and correct the bite.  However, I see patients with a wide range of needs that require treatment beyond the typical scope.  One example is helping children break their thumb sucking habit.  

There’s little worry when a baby, toddler, or even pre-school aged child sucks their thumb, but once the adult teeth start to erupt around age 5 or 6 permanent changes to the teeth and jaws can begin to show up.  The most common signs of thumb sucking:

·         Open bite - Incisors don’t touch.  The presence of the thumb prevented these teeth from fully erupting.

·         Small chin - The weight of the hand against the chin impedes its growth in the forward direction.

·         Narrow upper jaw with a crossbite- Instead of the wide tongue pressing up against the inside of the upper teeth, the small thumb is there instead, inhibiting left-right growth of the upper jaw.

·         Flared upper teeth - The thumb pushes these teeth forward.  

·         Tooth midlines are off - The asymmetric force of one hand against the jaw pushes the jaw away from the midline of the face.

The good news is that when the thumb habit is stopped in a growing child many of these spontaneously correct.  But it can be very difficult for a child to stop, especially when thumb sucking is a soothing behavior.

I have treated many children for thumb sucking, the most common treatment involves an expander to physically prevent from thumb from entering the mouth and upper braces to correct alignment.  This can last just a few months, or up to a year, depending on what is needed and how motivated the patient is to break the habit.

Please see the photo for an example of a patient treated at Chestnut Dental for a thumb sucking habit.  Notice the crossbite on the patient’s right at the beginning, the midlines were off, and there was an open bite.  After treatment the thumb sucking had stopped, and the crossbite and open bite were fully corrected.


Dr. Adam Donnell
Orthodontist, Bedford and Needham offices