Oral Habits: Thumb, finger, or tongue sucking, lip chewing or chewing of foreign objects.
As a parent, you are undoubtedly concerned with the oral habit of your child. Thumb or finger sucking is a myofunctional disorder that may cause the malformation of your child’s teeth. You may have already tried a number of motivational techniques to stop the habit but to no avail.
Being able to breathe through the nose with the lips closed is an important factor in successful myofunctional therapies. Nasal breathing and a shortened tongue attachment will be evaluated and a referral to your physician may be recommended.
Another consideration is the timing. This therapy needs to be scheduled at an uneventful time in life without added stresses like moving to a new home, starting a new school, a new baby in the house, fluctuating caregivers, illnesses, etc. The age of five is a good time to start since the permanent teeth have not started to erupt although this therapy can be done at any age beyond five.
Be encouraged that this will be a positive, fun experience. The child, parent, and therapist will work very closely as a team to overcome the habit with a behavior modification therapy that has been successful with many, many children over a period of years. Generally, the therapy will take 4 visits. The first session will be about an hour to build the relationships, gather the information and share the techniques. The three subsequent visits are a half an hour, one week apart. Over 90% of the patients do not put their thumb or finger in their mouth after the first visit.
Cooperation and compliance to the program by the child and the parent is critical.
Anterior or posterior open bite, open- mouth, lips- apart postures, or the appearance of tongue thrust swallow:
These orofacial myology disorders may have been brought to your attention by your dentist, orthodontist or speech pathologist. The assessment for these issues requires an hour appointment where pictures and measurements are taken, information documented and a diagnosis made. Conditions preventing nasal breathing and the shortened tissue attachment of the tongue to the floor of the mouth will be evaluated. The ultimate outcome is nasal breathing, a lip closed posture with good chewing and swallowing coordination. These factors give optimal support of the dental arch form, supporting what the orthodontist may need to accomplish. A treatment plan will be made and discussed with the patient and/or the parent. Generally, the therapy will take 16 to 18 weeks of half-hour appointments with follow-up appointments at one, three and six months to assure the new postures have been established.
The positive support and involvement of the parent cannot be emphasized enough. The orofacial myologist will work along with your dentist, or orthodontist and speech pathologist to accomplish the best results for the patient.