Thumb-sucking clinic – now open

First clinic in the UK to tackle thumb-sucking has been set up in London

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The Metamorphosis centre in West London has become the first to set up a “thumb-sucking clinic”, reports the Telegraph.

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It promises to deter children from a habit that’s said to damage teeth and jaws if it continues too long.

The private practice aims to tackle the thumb-sucking habit itself, as well as treating and problems it has caused. It was founded by Dr Neil Counihan, who was motivated to open the clinic after years of treating children with jaws and teeth badly affected by prolonged thumb-sucking. He noted that while some children suffer no problems after years of thumb sucking, others exacerbate or cause big problems with the habit.

But before you go charging off to West London, take heart from Dr Neil: “Quite often parents worry about thumb-sucking at a stage when there isn’t really anything to be concerned about. Some worry when a child is still in nappies.

“The problems start around the age of 6, when permanent teeth start to come through. The first thing we do is educate the parent and child, and then work out what action to take.”

Dr Les Joffe, chief executive of the British Orthodontic Society, also has pointed out that orthodontists can treat problems thought to be linked to the habit and many can direct you to aids that deter thumb-suckers. Also, many issues with jaw alignment are hereditary and aren’t due to childhood habits, he said.

Dr Les also said orthodontists had to take a careful approach in tackling habits that kids use as an emotional crutch.

“We know that children suck their thumb because it has a pleasurable, soothing sensation.

“If you are too harsh in trying to break one habit in a child, the risk is that you cause a whole new habit – maybe a more difficult one, such as bed-wetting. The psychology of it can be difficult.

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“Personally, I always advise parents not to force the issue too much, and to use incentives rather than to issue too many threats about buck teeth, which often turn out to be empty, since we don’t know which children will suffer consequences from sucking their thumb,” he said.

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