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Dental Devices To Curb Thumb Sucking Habits

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Thumb sucking is a habit that usually goes away on its own during a child's toddler years. However, there are some cases where a child might not break the habit until much later. It's a soothing way for a child to cope with stressful situations, but it can also potentially interfere with tooth development, leaving behind a less than perfect smile.

There are several ways to help your child to overcome their thumb sucking habit. One of the most popular ways involves the use of a dental device to physically interfere with thumb sucking. The following takes a look at several types of devices, including their advantages and disadvantages.

Palatial Crib

A palatial crib is one of the most basic mouth devices available for preventing thumb sucking habits. Attached to the rear upper molars, the device's metal rings are positioned behind the upper front teeth. When the wearer attempts to suck their thumb with the device installed, their thumb comes into contact with the rings, creating enough discomfort to discourage the act.

In most cases, the orthodontist will leave the device in place for up to a year. This is usually enough time to correct open bite problems and permanently discourage thumb sucking behaviors. The orthodontist will carry out inspections of the device after the first 2 to 4 weeks of wear, then every 1 to 2 months, to ensure healthy wear and inspect teeth alignment.

Hay Rake

The hay rake is a variation of the palatial crib. Whereas the palatial crib seeks to curb thumb sucking based on its very presence, the hay rake goes one step further by adding a set of short prongs. These prongs extend a small distance from the base of the device.

The prongs are designed to provide an even greater disincentive to wearers by actively causing severe discomfort to the thumb. When the wearer attempts to insert their thumb in their mouth, the relatively blunt prongs dig into the thumb far enough to cause pain, as opposed to making it merely uncomfortable to suck their thumb.

The hay rake's overall appearance lends it no favors, since it resembles something that'd be better suited to a medieval artifacts display. Nevertheless, many orthodontists still recommend it for severe instances of chronic thumb sucking.


Technically known as a "habit correction roller," the Bluegrass mouth device takes a different approach towards positively discouraging thumb sucking habits. Instead of rings or prongs, the Bluegrass device instead uses a plastic free-spinning roller that blocks the thumb from reaching the back of the front gums and the roof of the mouth.

The roller also helps correct orofacial muscular imbalances (tongue thrusting) that could interfere with speech and swallowing. The roller helps prevent the tongue from thrusting outwards when talking. Wearers are also encouraged to keep their tongue behind the roller when swallowing and at rest.

Exploring Other Options

Dental devices are relatively effective at reducing and even eliminating thumb sucking behaviors, but they're not without their drawbacks. Not only can they make it hard for wearers to fall asleep for the first few weeks, but wearers must take the same precautions as they would with braces (such as avoiding hard, sticky foods).

Before turning to dental devices, you may want to try positive reinforcement measures to help gently break your child's habit. For instance, helping a child realize when they're engaged in the habit and using praise and validation to encourage a break from it goes a long way towards curbing thumb sucking.

Dental devices should be considered when other options for curbing thumb sucking prove less than fruitful. The type of device you should choose depends on your orthodontist's recommendations, as well as any other dental issues that directly or indirectly stem from the habit.

For more information, talk to an experienced orthodontist at a clinic like Aspen Orthodontics