Monday, January 27, 2014

Could Thumb Sucking Past the Age of 3 be an Indication of Future Learning Struggles?

Thumb sucking should be considered normal under the age of 4. It becomes a concern once the child is 6-7 years old because secondary teeth are starting to erupt and thumb sucking can change the shape of your child’s mouth, resulting in crooked teeth or an overbite.

Nursing provides many ways in which the mouth and brain can mature and gain skill for eating, swallowing, speaking, and emotional bonding. However, sucking on a pacifier or thumb is a different action than sucking on a nipple, using different muscles and having a different effect on the development of the palate. Non-nutritive sucking (i.e. sucking but not feeding) tends to lead to a high, narrow palate. This in turn can lead to several problems such as crooked teeth, mouth breathing, speech development, and recurrent ear infections.

The anterior, posterior, sphenoidal and mastoid fontanelles are membrane type gaps formed at the corners of the parietal bones of the skull. Described as small springs, or fountains, the fontanelles fluctuate or move with changes in intracranial pressure (pressure to the skull) and allow for cranial molding during the birth process.

The temporal and sphenoid each consist of three membrane segments, which will continue to develop and unite during the first year of life. Excessive force applied to these structures during pregnancy, labor or assisted delivery (i.e., forceps, vacuum extraction and/or the Ritgen maneuver) may distort the membranous segments and alter the function of the associated soft tissue. Thumb sucking action acts like a pump on the cranial bones and allows them to shift into a more comfortable relationship.

Symptoms may go unnoticed until the infant exhibits any number of affects, one of which may be chronic otitis media or chronic ear infection. This may result in persistent retraction and Eustachian tube patency which is the opposite of blockage, where the Eustachian tube remains excessively open for a prolonged period.

If the (tensor vali palatine) muscle becomes hypotonic, as in the case of glue ear, there will be no counter balance for the other side (levator veli palatine) and the patient will eventually demonstrate a high dental arch (an excessive elevation of the palate) just below the sphenoid. The patient will have difficulty getting the tongue flat against the hard palate, which will result in abnormal breathing, swallowing and speech patterns. The patient will habitually suck his thumb to enhance his ability to swallow and nose breath.

A balancing of the occiput will result in a reciprocal change in the position of the cranial plates that articulate with the occiput, especially the parietals, sphenoid and temporal plates. Seeking care from a chiropractor or craniosacral therapist could result in the subtle movement which is usually enough to restore normal motion to the plates. When this occurs, the muscles that attach to those cranial plates will be affected and a change will occur in their state of tonicity.

Continuous thumb sucking may result in movement of all related musculature and cranial structures. Restoring movement to these structures by thumb sucking enhances the flow of cerebral spinal fluid and nutrient exchange to the central nervous system. Therefore reported mouth breathing and thumb sucking could indicate that the tensor vali palatine muscle is in a hypotonic state and the levator veli palatine muscle is in a hypertonic state.

Many parents of children with learning struggles have found success with craniosacral therapy.

A note about head banging

From a structural perspective, head banging, head rolling, thumb sucking, and other repetitive behaviors may be indica­tive of cranial subluxations either causing or resulting from meningeal stress. These subluxations/meningeal stresses are often the result of neurological damage caused by pre-natal or birth trauma, accidents, chemical stress, or emotional stress. Anger and other extreme emotions tighten the meningeal system and increase brain pressure; consequently, head banging is sometimes associated with tantrums. Repeti­tive rocking appears to be an attempt to release pressure on the brain and nervous system


Source: ICA Cranias I by Dr. Carol J. Phillips

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