Suburban Myofunctional Therapy Clinic

Christine Stevens Mills BS, SLP, COM

IAOM Certified Orofacial Myologist

Speach Language Pathologist


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Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders  A  to Z

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Welcome, I have been in private practice for over thirty-nine years, treating thumb/finger sucking patterns. During my career these questions have constantly been raised by parents when they arrived with their child for a consultation.


"Why wasn't I told earlier that thumb sucking could and would do damage to my child's teeth?"

"Why wasn't I told there was someone like you to help my child to stop sucking his or her thumb?"

"Why isn't there information in the Dentist's, Orthodontist's, or Pediatrician's office?"

"Why wasn't I told earlier that something could be done?"


TWO THUMBS UP helps provide a plan for you.

First, the thumb/finger sucker needs to be AWARE of the consequences of thumb sucking.

Second, he/she needs to be EDUCATED on how he or she can help themselves eliminate this pattern.

Third, he or she needs to be motivated to achieve SUCCESS!



Any of these statements sound familiar?

"We've tried everything, but nothing works."

"My husband is always yelling at him."

"I painted this bad tasting stuff on but she licks it off."

"We've punished him, made him wear a glove and even spanked him but the thumb goes right back."

"It's ok during the day, but when we look in at night, the thumb is back."

"My child's teeth are being pushed out of line."

Well, what would you do?    What can you do?   Perhaps nothing?

If the child is not consciously ready and willing to give up the habit, the chances for success with any regime are virtually nil. If the child indicates he or she would like to stop" but just can't help it," then the time is right to begin a program for eliminating thumb sucking.

There are many different treatment approaches available to eliminate a thumb problem; psycho-dynamic therapy, mechanical devices, and behavior modification just to name a few.

The empirical data clearly supports the use of behavior strategies, specifically behavior modification. If the thumb sucker is aware of what problems the thumb sucking is causing, desire to eliminate the thumb sucking can begin, and the education of what complications the thumb is contributing to, provides the combination to successfully working together to eliminate the thumb sucking problem.

With a concise, fun, and positive approach the child not only eliminates the thumb sucking but also increases his/her confidence and self-esteem.

The most successful programs begin with: Desire, Awareness, and Education.



Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association recognize that after age six chronic thumb/finger sucking can cause problems for dental development. It may also cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment.

Generally the thumb-sucking pattern will lessen or cease between the ages of three and four. Beyond that age, thumb sucking can cause real damage to the dentition (teeth) and other orofacial structures.

Before making any decisions about stopping a thumb/finger sucking habit it is important for you to be knowledgeable about this problem.

Thumb/Digit Sucking Complications

Constant pressure of thumb against the roof of the mouth can contribute to a high narrow arched palate.

Thumb/finger (digit) anchors the tongue down and forward instead of allowing the tongue to rest in the proper position on the roof of the mouth.

Contributes to abnormal tongue patterns.

Altered respiratory patterns. Altered normal facial growth patterns.

Contributes to open mouth rest posture of the lips.

Skin or cuticle infections and or calluses on thumb/finger digit.

Speech problems.

Difficulty focusing on a subject when thumb sucking occurs in a school setting.

Possible reduction of peer acceptance and or bullying.

Damage to the dentition (teeth) Most common cross bite, excessive overjet, and anterior open bite.

Constant pressure of thumb against the roof of the mouth can contribute to a high narrow arched palate.

  Pictures illustrating the damage that can occur from prolonged thumb sucking:


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International Association of Orofacial Myology


The IAOM certified orofacial myologist is specifically trained to diagnose and treat orofacial myofunctional disorders. These abnormal tongue patterns can contribute to changes in natural growth and development which may lead to a malocclusion and complicate speech problems. The orofacial myologist is also trained to eliminate thumb-finger (digit) sucking habits which can contribute to multiple problems.