I was a thumbsucker up until I was 13. Now my teeth are shaped in a hideous way. I don’t have a typical overbite but my top teeth are shaped in an upward curve. I wish to know which procedure I need to go through to get my teeth fixed to the way they should be.
– Ellie in Trinidad
To correct the mal-alignment of your teeth after thumb sucking, you need to see an orthodontist. There are other possible options to make them look better, but from what you’re describing, the teeth are in the wrong position plus they have an incorrect inclination. Braces could solve both problems.
And, for the benefit of parents who see their children sucking their thumbs. My advice, after working with many parents on this issue during my dental career, and also working with my own children, is to play it cool. If you make too big an issue of it, you will actually reinforce the practice by creating a complex in your child. I would advise doing nothing until the child starts school. Thumb sucking causes no permanent harm when only the baby teeth are in, which is the case up until about age 7. And, if you “play it cool,” usually when the child starts school, peer pressure will help them quit. Notice that Ellie sucked her thumb until age 13. If she had quit when she was 7, she wouldn’t have had this problem.
If their permanent front teeth are coming in and they are still thumb sucking, you may need to intervene. But my warning is to use encouragement, not force, shaming, or other high-powered techniques, to avoid creating an emotionally complex issue for your child that could backfire. If your child finds the habit tough to break, there are aids that can help them break the habit. But they generally only work if the child wants to quit. If that is your child’s situation – they want to quit thumb sucking but find it is an ingrained habit, tell them you can help and buy Thum or another product to help them. Thum is a bitter liquid that you paint on the thumb. It makes thumb sucking unpleasant, and will help, provided you have not made it an adversarial situation with your child.
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