Two Dental Appliances That Can Stop Thumb Sucking

It's not unusual for young children to self-soothe by sucking on their thumbs. While most kids eventually grow out of the habit, not all of them do, and this can cause oral health problems that will cost thousands of dollars to treat. There are a number of strategies parents can use to get their kids to stop sucking their thumbs; one of which is to talk to their children's pediatric dentists about installing habit-breaking dental devices. Here's more information about two orthodontic devices that could help.

Palatal Rake

A palatal rake is just as it sounds. It is a dental appliance that has several spikes or bars on the end. It is designed to sit on the palate just behind the upper front teeth. The goal with this particular appliance is to make it uncomfortable for children to suck their thumbs, since the bars will press into the skin whenever they attempt to put their fingers in their mouths. To avoid the pain, the child will quickly cease the habit.

This oral device is highly effective and can also be used to stop a tongue thrusting habit. However, there is the risk the child will injure his or herself by biting down too hard on the thumb. Thus, the palatal rake may be more appropriate for slightly older children who have more motor and self control.

Palatal Crib

The palatal crib is another habit-breaking device that sits on the palate, but it works in a different way to stop thumb sucking. Instead of descending vertically from the palate, the bars extend horizontally across the palate behind the teeth, forming a sort of gate. This prevents the thumb from making contact with that area of the palate, which disrupts the pleasure children receive from sucking their thumbs. Because there is no longer any pay off in engaging in the habit, the child eventually stops doing it.

This device is safer for young children to use, because the risk of hurting the hand is fairly low. However, it may take longer for the child to stop sucking his or her thumb. Additionally, a determined child could still continue engaging in the habit even though it's not at soothing as it once was.

Both of these dental appliances are typically attached to the child's molars, fixing them in place to prevent kids from simply removing them. They generally cost a few hundred dollars to install and they may not be covered by insurance. However, since it can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 to put braces on children, spending four or five hundred dollars now could literally save you thousands later on.

For more information about these devices or more tips on stopping your child from sucking his or her thumb, contact a kids' dentist.