Is thumb-sucking bad for my child?

The short, easy answer is yes. Now I could stop here because I just gave the answer to the question, but the answer wouldn’t be complete without an explanation.

The bones in our body are not static and unchanging. Your bones are constantly remodeling and adapting. Bone does this in part due to forces that push and/or pull on them. If a person works out, lifts weight, etc., their bones will change in response to the increased stress put on them by the activity a person is performing. Generally, if a muscle becomes larger and stronger, so will the bone that it is attached to. You may have also heard of people who have one leg that is shorter than the other. Sometimes a person with this condition undergoes a procedure called osteogenic distraction, which is the technical medical term. Basically it is when a bone is sectioned into two pieces and a device is placed on either side of the cut that moves the two sides slowly apart. Just like when a bone is broken and it repairs itself, the lengthening device causes new bone to grow because of the moving apart of the two halves of the bone.

When a child sucks their thumb, the thumb and muscles of the face are pushing and pulling on the jaw bones. This pushing/pulling can usually be strong enough to alter the shape and growth of the jaw bones. A pacifier can also do the same thing. The cheek muscles push in on the jaws, mainly the upper jaw, restricting the growth of the upper jaw. This causes the upper jaw to be narrower than normal, and then it doesn’t fit the lower jaw. Along with pushing on the jaws, the muscles also push on the teeth, pushing them in.

The thumb is pushing and pulling on the teeth and the jaws. When the thumb is in the mouth, it is having these effects: pushing up on the roof of the mouth, causing the shape of the roof to change, making it high and narrow. This can also cause the child’s airway to become restricted and narrowed.; pulling the front teeth and front of the upper jaw forward, causing the front teeth to stick out; pushing the lower front teeth and front of the lower jaw back; causing the teeth to crowd.

In some cases of long term, very vigorous thumb-sucking, these bad effects can be very severe. This means that the child will have to undergo more extensive orthodontic treatment to correct the problems, and in some cases the problems may not be able to be fixed all of the way.

The best advice for thumb-sucking is to stop the habit as early as possible. The longer the habit persists, the more damage will be done.


What are Self-Ligating Brackets?

You may have seen the term “self-ligating brackets” (SLB’s) during your online research about orthodontic treatment.
What does that mean?
You may have seen it used along with a description of “Damon System” self-ligating brackets. Damon System brackets are just one type of self-ligating brackets. They are not better than most other SLB’s, they just have name brand recognition.


So what are SLB’s?
Traditionally, wires (which are what move your teeth) are held into the braces with small, colored ties that are like tiny rubber bands. The wire can also be held in place with small stainless steel wires in some situations. Self-ligating (tying) brackets do not need either of these to hold the wire in place.


Despite some claims, self-ligating brackets do not move teeth faster, no matter what brand they are. The real benefit of self-ligating brackets is that they are self-tightening. With the rubber band ties, patients need to come in about once every four weeks because those ties wear out. With SLB’s, there aren’t any ties to wear out, so patients have to come in much less often. In our office, some appointments can be stretched out to twelve weeks! That means fewer appointments overall throughout your treatment. We know how busy everyone’s schedules are, so not having to come in as often is a great benefit that we can provide for our patients and their families. And we can do this while providing the same excellent results as traditional braces.


What is the downside to SLB’s? You might think that these high tech braces would make treatment cost more. In our office, even though SLB’s cost us a lot more than regular braces, we don’t pass that expense to our patients. In our office we believe that you shouldn’t have to pay extra for efficiency or aesthetics. About the only downside is that we don’t use colors with them. And that is an acceptable trade-off when compared to the huge benefits of SLB’s for our patients and their families.

DIY Orthodontics – the dangers that you face.

“I don’t have time to visit a doctor every month”
“Braces are just too expensive”
“It’s only one gap, I can close it myself”

These are just a few of the reasons that some people are taking the DIY trend to the extreme and DIY’ing their own orthodontic treatment.
NO. No no no no no. I cannot emphasize this enough, NO!

Some of the ‘quick fix’ techniques we are seeing are everything from rubber bands and dental floss used to close gaps, modeling clay retainers, to ‘make-your-own’ braces with paperclips…yes, you read that right. PAPERCLIPS.


These procedures have been popularized on social media, showing young adults utilizing these ‘at home’ techniques to move their teeth without the personal evaluation and care of an orthodontic specialist. There are so many health hazards that are posed when you attempt ANY kind of medical treatment on yourself without the direct supervision of a trained professional. There is a reason orthodontists spend thousands and thousands of hours going to school, then attend educational course throughout the rest of their career.  So that you can receive the best treatment possible with the lowest risk of irreversible damage.

Dr. Brent Larson, DDS, MS wrote in his blog “How Stuff Works” the following:
“A focus only on alignment and not on function or health often results in an unstable result with long-term dental health compromises. This could result in the loss of the supporting tooth root, gum recession, or in the worst case, loss of teeth.”


The old adage is true: You get what you pay for.

DIY orthodontics isn’t the same as remodeling a room in your house, or coloring your own hair. If either of those doesn’t work out as planned, all you have to do is call a professional and have it fixed. If your DIY orthodontics goes south, you may end up paying thousands of dollars to fix the problems or by the time you recognize the problem, it could be too late for even a professional to fix.

We realize that the cost of orthodontics is a leading cause of people attempting to fix their misalignment on their own. Here at Flanagan Orthodontics we can work around just about any budget and down payment. Flexible payment plans are kind of our thing.

For patients who cannot afford orthodontic treatment, the American Association of Orthodontics has created a national program called Donated Orthodontic Services (DOS) that can help qualified low-income children receive orthodontic care at a very minimal cost. Orthodontists across the country routinely donate their time to treat children in need.

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So put down the rubber bands, use the paperclips on paper, and call us. Nothing is worth losing your teeth over. Give us a call today to set up your FREE Smile Evaluation and consultation with me and my amazing staff and get the smile that you deserve!

Dr. Flanagan BC.qxd

Is oral hygiene important during orthodontic treatment?…

No, it isn’t important…
It is EXTREMELY important.
Orthodontic treatment can increase the chances of getting white spots (decalcification) and or decay when oral hygiene is poor during treatment. This can happen with traditional braces or Invisalign.


When a patient has braces on, the brackets, wires, etc. tend to trap and collect food around them. The food that we eat is also eaten by the bacteria in our mouths that cause decay and gum disease. The more that food is left on the teeth, the greater the chances are that a patient will get white spots and/or decay on their teeth.


This can also happen with Invisalign. If an Invisalign patient removes their aligners to eat, and then puts them back in with out brushing, all of that food becomes trapped between the tooth and the plastic aligner, holding it there for the bacteria to eat. With Invisalign, it also also very important to remove the aligners and at least rinse with water afterward when drinking anything other than plain water.


The reason for this is twofold- Many drinks have sugar in them. If you allow that sugary drink to sit inside of the aligner, it is feeding the bacteria. Many drinks are also acidic, and again, if they get trapped inside the aligner and sit against the teeth, that acid will eat away at the enamel.


Good oral hygiene is very important to us and we want our patients to be successful with it. When our patients start treatment we give them several “tools” to help them achieve that success. The most important of those “tools” is an Oral B electric toothbrush.


The electric toothbrush is more effective at cleaning around the braces. It also motivates our teen and adolescent patients to brush because they think the brush is “cool”.  We also stress to our patients and parents that regular cleanings and checkups every six months with their dentist and hygienist are essential to good oral health during their orthodontic experience.