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Posts for: February, 2015

TreatingThumbSuckingNowCouldReduceOrthodonticTreatmentLater

One of the most common parental concerns is the habit of many children, even late into childhood, to suck their thumbs or fingers. Many parents have asked us, “Could this affect their teeth?”

The answer, unfortunately, is yes — thumb sucking can contribute to a malocclusion (bad bite) that could eventually require orthodontic treatment. Before making any assumptions, however, we need to understand the bigger picture.

To begin with, infants have a different swallowing mechanism than adults and older children. When you as an adult swallow, you'll notice the tip of your tongue positions itself just above the back of the top front teeth. An infant, however, will thrust their tongue between their upper and lower jaw as they swallow (also known as an infantile swallowing pattern or primary tongue thrust). The infant normally begins changing to an adult swallowing pattern when their primary (baby) teeth begin to erupt.

However, if a child's swallowing transition is slower than normal and the tongue rests between the jaws for a longer duration, it can inhibit the full eruption of teeth, believed to be the main cause of an open bite (a gap between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are shut). The thumb during sucking resting between the teeth can have the same effect.

Thumb sucking may not necessarily lead to a malocclusion — for example, an abnormally developing jawbone could be the culprit. If prolonged thumb sucking does become a concern, however, there are steps we can take to reduce the impact of the habit. We can install a thin metal “tongue crib” behind the upper and lower incisors that will not only discourage thumb sucking, but also help retrain the tongue not to rest between the upper and lower teeth. There are also exercise routines known as orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT) that can retrain specific muscles in the mouth to encourage more normal chewing and swallowing patterns.

These steps may not prevent future orthodontic treatment, but they could reduce its extent. The key is regular dental checkups and consultation to ensure your child's teeth and bite are developing normally.

If you would like more information on the effects of chronic thumb sucking on the mouth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”


By Silas E. Daniel, DDS
February 13, 2015
Category: Dental Procedures
BaseballandBracesJoeGirardisBargain

Sometimes, we all need a bit of prompting to do what's good for us. When Serena Girardi, the 10-year-old daughter of New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, needed to have orthodontic treatment, she was a little nervous. To help lessen her anxiety, Girardi, then 45 years old, made a deal: if she got braces, then he would too.

“What I didn't realize,” said Girardi in an interview with ESPN, “is that she only had to get four on her front teeth and I got the full mouthful.”

But that didn't stop the baseball great from keeping up his end of the bargain. In a separate deal with his son Dante, who also needed braces, Girardi agreed to wear blue rubber bands. “It's a good look,” he said. What will he do if his third child needs braces? Stay tuned...

Whether it starts as a bargain with your kids or as a promise to yourself, orthodontic treatment can offer real benefits at any age. In fact, about one out of five orthodontic patients today is an adult. Studies have shown that up to three-quarters of all adults have some form of orthodontic problem, like drifting or crowding of teeth. And having a great-looking smile not only improves self-confidence, but can also boost an adult's social life, and even enhance his or her career opportunities.

If you or your child may need braces, but you're put off by the dreary metal hardware you remember from back in the day, take heart! Plenty has changed in the field of orthodontics since you were a teenager — and it's not just the color of the rubber bands.

In many cases, clear or colorless ceramic braces can be used instead of metal ones. These stain-resistant orthodontic appliances blend in well with your own teeth, making them much less evident. It may be possible for them to be placed on the lingual (tongue) side of the teeth, where they're even less visible.

Clear aligners offer an alternative to braces that's appropriate for some people. Aligners are a series of precision-made “trays” composed of polyurethane plastic. Worn 20-22 hours per day for a period of months, these appliances gradually move teeth into an improved position. Besides being virtually invisible, another advantage of these trays is that they may be removed for eating and for important occasions. Once recommended only for adults, they have recently become available to teenagers as well.

What's the best way to find out whether you or someone in your family could benefit from orthodontics, and which treatment option best suits your individual needs? Come in to our office for a consultation! After a thorough examination, we would be happy to recommend the most appropriate treatment methods for your particular situation.

If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Orthodontics For The Older Adult” and “Clear Aligners for Teenagers.”




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