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Thumb Sucking Can Damage Gums and Teeth
For many, the sight of a child sucking their thumb is the ultimate picture of innocence. But Britain’s first “thumb-sucking clinic” is promising to deter children from a habit which can damage teeth and jaws if it continues too long.

Orthodontists who say they have treated hundreds of patients with buck teeth and jaw alignment problems caused by prolonged thumb-sucking have founded a practice which aims to help break the habit, as well as repairing damage caused. Most children stop sucking fingers or thumbs between the age of three and six, when it causes no damage.

However, those who continue as their adult teeth grow risk affecting their jaw development and the position of their teeth, according to NHS advice. While most orthodontists are accustomed to treating such symptoms, the Metamorphosis centre in West London is the first to set up a “thumb-sucking clinic” to tackle the habit itself.

Weapons in its arsenal include a range of metal devices fitted in the mouth, which mean those who suck thumbs or fingers no longer derive comfort from it, as well as more conventional plastic “thumbguards” which cover the thumb itself and which children find difficult to remove. Dr Neil Counihan, the clinic’s founder, said he decided to open the private service after years of treating children whose jaws and teeth had been badly affected by prolonged thumb-sucking.