Chewing the TGuards: Is it normal? What is an Oral Fixation?
A significant percentage of caregivers will notice their children chewing the TGuards while they are in use. Is it normal? Is it safe? Is my child OK??
The answer to all three questions is YES. In fact, many children develop what is called an “oral fixation” alongside their thumb or finger sucking habit. This means that, on top of receiving pleasure from the vacuum created from non-nutritive sucking, they also receive pleasure from the sensation of having foreign objects in their mouth. You can see the oral fixation in effect whenever the child is chewing on the TGuards, sucking on a sleeve, putting a blanket near their cheek, or otherwise stimulating the inside or outside of their mouth.
Many people may mistakenly think that the child suddenly developed this new habit to chew on things, but that is not the case; when a child is engaged in thumb or finger sucking, the digit itself is providing the stimulation that they crave for both the oral fixation and the thumb or finger sucking. When the TGuard is being worn, though they cannot engage in thumb or finger sucking, they can still receive pleasure from chewing or otherwise manipulating the device in their mouth.
What does that mean for you?
Well, it’s nothing to be alarmed about. The material chosen for TGuard is a medical-grade, non-toxic plastic which can be found in pacifiers and other baby products (see our materials data sheet here). What you should be looking out for is two things:
- That the child does not chew off a large enough piece to be able to access their thumb or finger, and engage in sucking again
- That the child has stopped chewing on the appliances for at least a week before you remove them.
The second point is important: if you follow the treatment guidelines carefully, and successfully cure your child of thumb or finger sucking, there is still a risk that they can lapse if they have a lingering oral fixation. Why is that? Well, if at the end of treatment, the child still tends to put things other than food in their mouth, then when you remove the appliances, it is possible that they will resort to the tips of their thumbs or fingers, or nails. While it may not be sucking at first, over time, they may accidentally slip back into the habit. For that reason, it is best to ensure that the oral fixation is totally gone before you remove the appliances.
What should I do about it?
If you see your child chewing on the appliances, or anything else, we recommend gently reminding them not to do it. Talk with them and let them know it is a bad habit, which allows germs to enter the mouth, and convince them that they should stop. It is more of a conscious habit than thumb or finger sucking, and can usually be behaviorally controlled. The trick is to gradually build up their awareness; once they realize when they do it, they can better control it so that they eventually stop. If you and every other care provider (such as a teacher or babysitter) continuously remind the child that they should not put things in their mouth, the habit will disappear when the awareness is developed.
We would recommend to extend the treatment until the child goes 1 week without putting anything in their mouth. Usually this is a good indicator that the oral fixation is gone, and it is safe to remove the appliance.
This page is based on the TGuard Treatment Coach series of informative and timely tips designed to help you break the habit, after you have purchased the kit.
Related articles in this series: Treatment Tips, What to Expect During Treatment