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How to stop your child sucking their thumb

Does your child suck their thumb? Don’t panic; it’s natural—ultrasound shows that babies suck their thumbs even before they are born! And around 50% of children indulge in thumb or finger sucking at some stage.

The damage thumb sucking causes

If your child does suck their thumb, it is important they don’t do it for too long. You see, the pressure caused by sucking can push a child’s teeth out and away from each other causing them to stick out. It can also damage the structure of the roof of a child’s mouth.

In reality, thumb sucking causes very little — if any — damage during a child’s early years. However, if they continue the habit when their adult teeth begin to erupt (at around six or seven years of age), they can experience the problems described later on.

To get an idea of the extent of your child’s habit, inspect their fingers or thumbs — you may see calluses or blisters.

Why do children suck their thumbs?

Babies are hard-wired to suck — it’s how they eat. Most babies, though, stop sucking their thumbs at around six months of age. Children who continue sucking their thumbs for longer usually do so when tired, bored or need comfort. It’s not having something in their mouth that they like, rather the pleasure they receive from sucking.

How to stop the habit

There are several things you can do to nip the habit in the bud. For example, you can try “mind games”, and tell your child that Santa’s security cameras are watching, so they had better stop if they want to stay off Santa’s naughty list. Not exactly honest, but it can work..

Here are some other solutions:

  • Varnish — apply a varnish, which tastes really bad, to your child’s fingers or thumbs. Unfortunately, it’s not too hard to lick off, though.
  • Old sock — put a smelly old sock on your child’s hand. Most little girls particularly are horrified by the thought of going anywhere near a smelly old sock.
  • Pretty ring — give your daughter a ring to wear on the offending finger or thumb. Her desire to look after the ring can discourage her from thumb or finger sucking.
  • Thumb guard — this is an oversized silicon tube that fits over the thumb. It is attached to a clip on a child’s wrist, which prevents them from taking it off. Of course, your child can still put the tube in their mouth, but they won’t enjoy the sucking sensation.
  • Thumb crib — your orthodontist can attach a thumb crib to your child’s top molars. It is like a little gate that acts as a reminder that no thumbs are allowed.

So, there are several ways to prevent a child sucking their fingers or thumb. Some may seem a little drastic, a bit sneaky, but if they prevent problems later on, they’re well worth it.

What do you think? Can you suggest any other ways to prevent thumb sucking? We welcome your comments.
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My child wears dental braces. Can they still play sport?

Sport is important for a child’s development. It keeps them physically fit and teaches important social skills, too. So, if your child is getting dental braces, can they still play sport? Absolutely!

Dental braces should NOT prevent your child from playing any sport. However, particularly if participating in a contact sport, like rugby or hockey, they should always wear a mouth guard (incidentally, hockey is second only to rugby for sports injuries).

Will any mouth guard do?

We won’t usually make a custom mouth guard for a patient; when their teeth move their mouth guard will eventually no longer fit — we want something that will fit for the duration of a patient’s treatment. We do have some options available, though. Usually we’ll advise a patient to get an off-the-shelf orthodontic mouth guard.

General mouth guards

Please note your child needs an orthodontic mouth guard, not one for wearing without braces. There is a difference.

A general mouth guard is made from thermoplastic. Before use, it needs to be heated in boiling water and then bitten into to make an imprint of the teeth. When wearing dental braces, this type of mouth guard doesn’t work well. This is because teeth will move during the course of orthodontic treatment. A general mouth guard will try to pull the teeth back into their original position, or the mouth guard will eventually no longer fit. Also, general mouth guards fit a bit too well, so if your child gets hit hard in the teeth, the brackets on their braces can get knocked off.

Orthodontic braces

So, we recommend your child wears an orthodontic mouth guard. Orthodontic mouth guards are made from silicone — you don’t have to boil them before use. They have flanges designed to be bitten down on to keep them in position. They also have large rubber flanges that slip under the lips to prevent them from being pushed onto the brackets.

Playing a wind musical instrument

We have several patients who play instruments you have to blow into, like saxophones and trumpets, etc. — some are quite accomplished. Wearing braces won’t scuttle their musical careers; however, it can take about a week to find the “right notes” again.
If your child plays a wind instrument, they may need to put something over their braces. There are special covers available; however, wax, which we also use to protect the mouth, is usually sufficient.

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Turner Lim Orthodontists introduce a new scanner to improve quality & patient experience

Technolgy in orthodontics is always changing. And to stay ahead of the game, we recently invested in a new piece of equipment — a 3M True Definition Scanner.

“So what?” you might say.

Well, as orthodontists, there are two key things that concern us: patient experience and the quality of our work. The new scanner enables us to improve both these things.

Making an impression

If you’re getting braces fitted, we must first take an impression of your teeth — a 3-D model that enables us to measure tooth and bones sizes, etc., and determine the best course of treatment. Until recently this meant creating a mould.

The problem with moulds

It’s fair to say that having a mould taken of your teeth and gums can be messy and uncomfortable. It involves putting a tray filled with a substance called alginate into your mouth.  The alginate feels a bit like cake batter and can sometimes cause a gagging sensation. We hold the tray in place until the alginate sets, which takes about a minute for each of your top and bottom teeth.

Later, we pour plaster into the mould to create a model. Of course, having a physical model means we need somewhere to keep it. At the end of your treatment we’ll usually give it to you as a souvenir. However, we still accumulate quite a few models that need to be disposed of (see phone below).


Disposing of old moulds

The 3M True Definition Scanner

Our new scanner replaces the need for moulds — no more gagging! And it, ultimately, enables us to provide better treatment.

Because no moulds are needed, the whole process is much quicker and less messy. We use a scanning wand to take a scan of your teeth and gums, which takes just a few minutes. You’ll even be able to see the images on a screen to get a better understanding of what’s going on.

There is potential for inaccuracies with moulds. Digital impressioning, on the other hand, takes a video of your teeth and gums enabling us to keep a digital record. It’s like looking at a high-definition photograph, and it allows us examine your bite and view your bite from many angles and do lots of measurements. As you can imagine, it’s also much easier to send a digital file to others than a physical model.

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