Babies naturally suck on fingers, pacifiers, thumbs, and other objects. In fact, research shows about 90% of newborns suck on some part of their hand soon after birth. This natural reflex helps tiny humans feel secure. It’s also a way to learn about their environment.
Most children naturally stop sucking their thumb around age two or three. However, for some young people, the habit sticks around. If your child sucks their thumb after age four, however, it can cause negative long-term effects.
At Duval Orthodontics with offices in Warner Robins and Albany, Georgia, experienced orthodontist Dr. Duval has helped countless children overcome this unhealthy habit and preserve their oral health by using a simple device called a tongue crib.
If your child sucks their thumb, keep reading to learn more about tongue cribs and whether one might be right for your child.
Why is thumb sucking a problem?
After age four, your child’s permanent teeth start to form and come in. This is when problems begin, because thumb sucking can affect how your child’s teeth align. The habit can also affect their palate, or roof of the mouth.
If this happens, it can cause ongoing problems for your child’s oral health, including:
- Open bite
- Misaligned bite
- Damage to permanent teeth
- Jaw problems
- Tongue thrusting
- Palate problems
- Speech impediment
- Skin troubles
- Issues swallowing
Thumb sucking can also affect your child’s social life. As your child gets older, adults and other children may react negatively. Fortunately, a simple oral device can help your child stop sucking their thumb before these problems begin.
What is a tongue crib and how can it help with thumb sucking?
Tongue cribs are simple orthodontic devices. It has a metal grate that hangs from two rings placed at the back of the mouth. The grate blocks the top/front of your child’s palate and stays in position with two rings.
With the grate in place, your child can’t suck their thumb (or other fingers) because the grate prevents suction. The device also helps keep your child’s tongue in the correct position, which helps reduce some of the problems listed above.
Tongue cribs come in two forms: permanent and removable. Dr. Duval advises which type is best for your child. Some children use a tongue crib for a few months to kick the thumb-sucking habit, while others may need to wear it longer.
Is a tongue crib right for my child?
The best way to learn if a tongue crib is right for your child is by scheduling a consultation with Dr. Duval. He reviews your child’s dental history and examines their teeth and mouth to recommend the best treatment for them.
Generally, a tongue crib works best in children older than four or five. Don’t wait if your child has a thumb-sucking habit — the longer they suck their thumb, the more damage they cause and the harder it is to break the habit.
If your child sucks their thumb, learn if a tongue crib is the right solution by scheduling a consultation online or over the phone at Duval Orthodontics.