Thumb Sucking Solutions


Many parents ask Dr. Hage about their children’s thumb or finger sucking behavior.


Between the ages of two and four, most children stop sucking their thumbs on their own.  It tapers off naturally as children become more active and use their hands for other activities.  Children entering school or play groups may feel peer pressure to stop placing their fingers in their mouth.  However, if your child continues this behavior after the age of four, you should take corrective action as it can cause damage that may require extensive orthodontic treatment to correct.

There are a number of factors that will determine the extent of problems that will result from thumb or finger sucking. The first factor is the intensity of the thumb sucking.  If your child sucks passively, resting the thumb or finger inside the mouth, it is less likely to cause problems.  On the other hand,  if he or she sucks intensely and creates a significant amount of pressure in the mouth, it can lead to problems with tooth alignment and jaw growth.  The second factor is the amount of time your child spends engaging in this activity.  If it is consistent, especially during the day, it is more problematic.

Depending on these factors, there are a number of common problems that result from regular thumb/finger sucking once permanent teeth emerge.  If you see any of the following signs you should schedule a free consultation with Dr. Hage.

  • An overbite, which means the upper front teeth protrude.
  • An open bite, which means there is an opening between the upper and lower front teeth when the back teeth are biting together.
  • A crossbite, which means there is an underdeveloped upper jaw which causes the lower jaw to shift to one side.
  • A recessive or weak chin.  This means the lower jaw is not developing properly.
  • Speech or chewing difficulties may also occur in more pronounced cases.


There is a widespread agreement that a positive approach is the best way to overcome this habit.  It will allow your child to build confidence and take pride in their accomplishment.  A negative approach will unlikely work and may even worsen the situation.  Even so, you should gently explain the consequences.  Here are some suggestions that you can implement, on your own to help your child.

  • Painting or smearing a bad tasting substance, such as Mavala on the thumb or finger.  It stops the habit very quickly in most children.
  • If you notice your child engaging in the habit because they are tired or hungry, try to resolve the particular situation rather than focusing on the thumb sucking behavior.
  • Take note of the particular times your child tends to thumb suck.  Such as riding in the car or watching television and then attempt to create distractions during this time.
  • If the the finger or thumb sucking occurs primarily when the child is engaged in a secondary habit, such as holding a security blanket or stuffed animal or twirling hair, it is a good idea to correct both habits at the same time. If you get control of the secondary habit, often times the thumb sucking will stop or greatly reduce on its own.
  • Start a progress chart and have your child place a sticker on the chart each day he/she is successful at avoiding their thumb/finger. Explain that if they go for an extended period of time without the habit, they will be able to choose a prize from a list you create together.
  • Place a bandage around your child’s finger or a sock on their hand at night.  Just let them know this is not a punishment, but rather a method to help them avoid the thumb/finger habit.


If none of the above solutions help and your child’s permanent teeth begin to emerge, it may be time to seek the help of an orthodontist.  One common solution is a device called a “fixed palatal crib”.  Also referred to as a tongue crib.  It is essentially a small appliance that is placed on the upper teeth and the roof of the mouth.  It is almost invisible to outside observers. The crib is very effective and usually stops the thumb/finger habit very quickly because it removes the enjoyment.  The crib prevents the thumb or finger from touching the gums behind the front teeth.  Try to remember your child likely gets a substantial amount of comfort and security from this behavior so he is likely to be restless, unhappy and uncomfortable after the crib is inserted.  You can alleviate this by providing the child with extra affection and attention while he adjusts to the new orthodontic appliance.

If you feel your child needs orthodontic help with his thumb/finger habit, you should call for a free consultation with Dr. Hage.

When Do I Get My Braces Off?

The first thing our patients want to know when they get their braces on is when those braces will come off.  In other words, “When will I have that beautiful smile I’ve always wanted?”  Braces can be a pain, literally! We don’t want to endure them any longer than we have to, but that smile will be worth it, so be patient.

Most likely you’ve already been given an estimate about how long it will take to straighten your teeth.   Each patient is different because we all come to the orthodontist with different problems with our teeth or our bite.  There are three primary steps orthodontists take to give you the smile you want.

 3 Steps to Straightening Your Teeth

Resolving crowding/spacing

  • Your orthodontist may need to take steps to make room for the teeth to be aligned.  The decision of how to do this is based on the size of the teeth, jaw and other factors.
  • If spacing is the problem, your orthodontist will take steps to close space or gaps between your teeth.
  • Aligning or straightening your teeth
  • Your orthodontist will use wires, springs, rubber bands and other methods to turn the teeth into their desired position.

Aligning or straightening the teeth 

  • Your orthodontist will use wires, springs, rubber bands and other methods to turn the teeth to their desired position.
  • This may require removal and re-positioning of individual brackets because they may not be able to be put in the correct position in the beginning.

Correcting the bite

  • Your orthodontist will make sure your upper teeth fit correctly with the lower teeth.  Many people have over-bites (when the upper teeth are out too far) or under-bites (when the lower teeth are out too far) or cross-bites (side-to-side).
  • This is accomplished with wires and rubber bands until the bite is correct. When the backs of the top teeth rest lightly on the fronts of the bottom teeth.

Patients tend to become impatient during the third stage of the process because things are starting to look good.  They can see their new smile coming through.  At this point, most people begin to feel that enough is enough and they’re ready to leave their braces behind.  However, there are still many details that will need to be taken care of to make your smile perfect. After all, this is what you’re paying for, right?

What to Look for in the Mirror

Here are some questions to ask yourself so you know whether you’re close to getting your braces off:

  1. Are your teeth straight?
  2. Are the spaces between your teeth completely closed?
  3. Do the upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth appropriately?
  4. Is the over bite or under bite corrected?

Be patient and let it happen as your orthodontist sees fit.  You’ll have your new, healthy and stable smile in no time.

Consult Dr. Hage to find out approximately how long it will take for you to get the smile you’ve always wanted!  Visit our website or call our office to schedule a consultation.

The Importance of Lifetime Retainer Wear

When you finish your orthodontic treatment, you are excited to be free of the appliances  you’ve had to put up with — brackets, wires, aligners, and so on.  However, while it is certainly important to revel in the freedom of your new smile, equally important is taking the necessary action to retain it.  That comes down to one word — retainers.

After completing orthodontic treatment under the care of Dr. Michael Hage, you will be prescribed a retainer that will be custom-made to fit your smile.  You will receive instructions for how and when to wear these retainers.

It is recommended that you continue wearing your retainers regularly throughout your lifetime.

Ongoing Shifts

Over time your teeth will start to shift toward their original positions.  This is because your gum fibers will slowly, but consistently try to pull your teeth back to where they once were.  Additionally, as you age your facial skeletal structure changes and your teeth experience natural wear.  As a result, the perfectly straight smile you leave the orthodontist with could become unstraightened over time, your teeth becoming the victim to a crowding relapse.

Retention Case Study

The University of Washington conducted a case study in which former orthodontic patients were studied for 10-20 years after completing their orthodontic treatment.  These results — without fail, no matter what type of orthodontic treatment the patients underwent (braces, extractions, Invisalign, etc.) they all experienced an orthodontic relapse.  In other words, their teeth moved.  How straight their smiles remained was directly related to their retainer wear.

When to Wear

For the first three (3) days after your braces are removed, Dr. Hage advises the retainers be worn full time (except while eating or drinking.)  After three days, both retainers should be worn at night while sleeping.  If you’re not comfortable wearing your retainers while sleeping, find a time throughout the day when you can wear them for 6 hours.

Types of Retainers

  • Essix Retainers, made of clear plastic (they look like Invisalign aligners)
  • Permanent Retainers, which are glued to the back of your teeth.
  • Hawley Retainers, made of metal and acrylic

A Lifetime of Straight Smiles

As your trusted Effingham, Decatur and Mattoon orthodontist, Dr. Michael Hage is dedicated to helping you attain a straight, beautiful smile.  Once that’s done, we encourage you to take pride in your smile by doing your part to maintain it throughout the rest of your life.  Wear your retainer(s) as often as  you can and your teeth will be less likely to shift back to their old positions.  For more information about retainers or orthodontic treatment in general, contact Hage Orthodontics at our Effingham, Decatur or Mattoon office!

Top Ways to Ensure You and Your Braces Have a Good Relationship

You and your braces will become good friends over the coming months or years, so it’s important to get your relationship off to a good start. Consider the following to prevent rocky times ahead:

  1. Floss, floss, floss.  Yes, it’s a pain to floss around your braces, but it’s the best way to prevent gum disease and other oral health problems.  Ask Dr. Michael Hage and our staff for floss threaders or Superfloss to make the chore easier.  Just a few minutes per day will ensure that you don’t face significant dental issues when your braces come off.
  2. Avoid sticky or hard foods. It’s tough to forgo toffee, caramel, gum, and other sticky treats, but your braces will thank you.  Sticky or hard foods can break a bracket or wire, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.
  3. Chew with your back teeth.  If you’re used to taking large bites with your front teeth, it’s time to switch up your eating habits.  Taking a large bite of food with your front teeth can leave your braces vulnerable to damage.  Instead, cut large foods into pieces and use your back teeth to chew.  This is especially important with corn on the cob, which should always be cut from the cob.
  4. Wear rubber bands.  Rubber bands and other orthodontic appliances may seem annoying, but failing to wear them can increase the length of your treatment by months.  Wear them now to avoid problems in the future.

National Orthodontic Health Month

Halloween is a fun time of the year for kids of all ages…but it can be a ‘nightmare’ for an orthodontic practice if patients damage appliances by eating the wrong treats.

At Hage Orthodontics we love a Halloween! However, we also try to be proactive about educating patients and parents of the potential hazards that can occur if orthodontic patients don’t watch what they eat.

October is National Orthodontic Health Month.  Dr. Michael Hage supports the American Association of Orthodontics in their efforts to make patients aware of foods they need to avoid, especially Halloween goodies. Read More

Peyton Manning – Overcoming A Birth Defect And Bullying


Sports professionals in the limelight are offered the perfect opportunity to give back, especially after overcoming their own adversities or that of a close family member. Peyton Manning, famed football star, overcame a problem of his own after being born with a cleft palate.

A cleft palate is a physical deformity of the mouth, when the two plates of the skull that form the hard palate, also called the roof of the mouth, is not fully joined, causing a gap. As is the case with most children suffering from a cleft palate, Manning faced several challenges. As a baby, Manning had to use special bottles, because the hole in his palate caused the milk he was being fed to come out his nose.Read More