As we have learned from our previous blog post, oral habits are pretty common, especially for young kids. We’ve also discussed how these habits can cause unsightly changes to teeth and/or jaws.
In this second article, we will now focus on treatment.
First of all, you should know that thumb sucking is actually a self-soothing habit for kids, but it can be detrimental to the alignment of the teeth in the long run.
In most cases, kids simply grow out of it without any intervention, while others just can’t bring themselves to stop it.
Discontinuation should occur spontaneously and not forced upon the child. Once the habit is completely stopped, only then can definitive treatment be rendered.
Oral Habits are good for you
The sooner or earlier the habit is stopped, the more likely the changes that occurred will correct itself. One way to do so is by counseling the kid.
The success of counseling depends on the kid’s level of understanding – that is, his or her ability to understand the troubles thumb sucking can cause. Counseling is, therefore, more appropriate for older kids.
Besides counseling, another approach is the so-called reminder therapy. This is for kids who need additional help in stopping the habit. It involves putting a cue – can be a bandage, a bitter substance, etc. – on the patient’s finger to serve as a reminder that they should not put their finger into their mouth. But be sure to emphasize over and over again that the cue is a just reminder and not some sort of punishment.
Also, praising the kid for stopping the habit can help a lot. If either counseling and reminder therapy prove to be ineffective, only then will the installation of preventive appliances be necessary.
Management of tongue thrusting comes in two methods.
The other approach is by training the patient to change his or her swallowing pattern. This is achieved through a series of exercises called the orofacial myofunctional therapy. Such method sorts of “re-educate” the muscles into following the right swallowing pattern. The orofacial myofunctional therapy offers a high and long-term success rate.
There really isn’t much we can do to stop the lip sucking habit; nonetheless, steroids and antibiotic ointments may be applied to provide relief on irritated areas.
Intervention is usually not necessary since most kids outgrow bruxism. But for those who don’t, there are a couple of treatments that can help. These include fabrication of mouthguards, performing stress-reducing exercises, removal of interferences on biting surfaces of the teeth, and referral to appropriate specialists to rule out any medical or psychological problems.
The first step is consulting your dentist to determine which of these options would be most appropriate for you or your kid’s case.
The simplest, most practical solution to this habit is applying nail polish to discourage the practice. Behavioral therapy may also be helpful, but kids would probably prefer nail polish since it can also make their nails look attractive.