Habit Therapy

Sometimes habits such as thumb sucking after the age of five can distort the shape of the dental arches…

Children often pick up bad habits to either deal with stress or simply because it is a comfort to them. Thumb sucking and tongue thrusting are some of the most common mouth habits and can cause open bites, speech anomalies, narrow palates, cross bites, crowding of lower from teeth and protrusion and spacing of upper front teeth.

Using a combination of feedback and appliances, at MYORTHODONTIST we have had considerable success in eliminating habits and correcting any resulting distortion of the dental arches.

The first step is to determine if the child genuinely wants to give up their habit. Are they just saying they do because they know that’s what the adults want them to say, or do they really want to stop but are finding it hard to give up an entrenched habit?

Imagine trying to give up smoking; it is hard enough to do so if you really want to but how likely are you to succeed if you are only doing so to keep your spouse, your boyfriend or your girlfriend happy?

We help them to help themselves…

If there is an intrinsic desire to stop their habit, we can help them to help themselves. Imposing a solution upon them, like applying a bad tasting liquid to the thumb or fingers or an appliance with sharp prongs is unlikely to work unless the child wants to be helped. Nagging rarely works either. Sometimes the issue generates real tension in the household. If that is happening, it is time to seek help outside the family. Keep in mind that below five or six years of age, any dental distortion may self correct once the habit stops. At six however, permanent teeth are starting to erupt and the likelihood of spontaneous improvement recedes.

So after determining that the desire to stop is intrinsic rather than extrinsic, we use feedback to show them how well they are succeeding at curbing their habit and to see if it is waning. Appropriate praise by parents and practitioner is lavished upon them and then an appliance can be introduced to reverse dental distortions and prevent relapse. We are proud of our success rate and particularly pleased to report that often the child stops the very day they start their feedback chart with us. Clearly, they are ready to stop and just need that little extra push from a stranger.

Dr Morris Rapaport

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