How is your child’s jaw developing and what is the impact on their quality of life?
-written by Dr. Ian Mah, General Dentist, Park Dental
Craniofacial development begins at day one of life. What is craniofacial development? It is a term describing the three dimensional shape of one’s head, face and jaws. From a dental perspective, this pertains to the structures of the face and jaws below the part of the skull that houses the brain. In the past, it was thought that the development of the shape, size and three dimensional relationship of the jaws was mostly determined by genetics.
In recent years, it has been shown that this previously held belief is not as large of a factor in jaw size development as previously thought. The environment in which the jaws grow and function plays a very large role in how much the craniofacial bones grow. This environmental influence refers to the constant and intermittent forces that play on the muscles, fascial tissues and the bone that makes up our chewing system. The direction, duration and strength of these forces have been shown to toggle the genes responsible for growth on and off. This phenomenon is called epigenetics.
Recent knowledge has shown that children growing up in the modern world are subjected to growth altering influences such as baby bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups with non-spill valves, etc.. Further influences such as pureed baby foods, soft foods, high calorie diets, poor posture, mouth breathing and many others, continue to negatively influence craniofacial development. Why is this important? The bones that comprise the upper jaw forms three of the four walls of the nasal airway and the bones that comprise the lower jaw forms the scaffold that supports the shape and size of the oropharyngeal airway. If these bones are underdeveloped, we see some of the common symptoms that affect as many as 70% of our children and adults today. These symptoms are small jaws, crowded teeth, nocturnal grinding of teeth, TMJ disorders, snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, poor academic performance and behavior similar to ADHD.
Archaeological studies have shown that as short as 150-200 years ago, most people had larger jaws, straight teeth, enough room for the wisdom teeth and much better ability to breathe. This trend of craniofacial underdevelopment is quite alarming.
At Park Dental, we screen patients for these abnormal growth patterns and offer options to effect corrective changes as the jaws are developing. The best is to correct epigenetic growth patterns early by correcting how we eat, what we eat, how we hold our posture, swallowing habits, facial muscle activation during swallowing or at rest, etc.. We have an in-house myofunctional therapist to help with this aspect of therapy. If we need further assistance in achieving a more normal growth pattern, we could introduce the child to dental development guiding devices such as Myobrace, an Australian invention that is tailored to address the abnormal functional issues while correcting the dental and jaw growth and alignment.
The Myobrace Program is an early interceptive orthodontic program that is easy to comply with and is fun to use. There are cartoon based activities that help to train away bad functional habits while replacing them with proper ones and then forming them into life long proper habits. There are portions of the program that addresses resting position of the oral and facial muscles, swallowing pattern, proper breathing techniques as well as posture. The Myobrace Trainer and Advanced devices are soft mouth pieces that resemble sports mouth guards. These are worn at night as the child sleeps and for one hour during the day. While wearing these devices, the jaws are positioned into proper alignment to guide the growth as well as gently aligning the teeth in the process.
The advantages of guiding growth while the child is growing has huge benefits such as being able to prevent the need for more complex orthodontics or jaw surgery to align the jaws later in life. More importantly, we can address the epidemic of craniofacial underdevelopment which has huge implications in upper airway restriction and obstructive sleep apnea which often shows up later in life.
The key risk factors to look for are:
- lack of gaps between the front baby teeth or crowded teeth
- deep overlap of the front upper with the front lower teeth
- snoring, audible nose breathing or pauses in breathing at night
- movement all over the bed at night
- bed wetting when child is successfully using the potty during the daytime
- weak chin
- mouth breathing
- inability to latch to breast feed in infancy
- inability to speak clearly
There are other factors, but these are the easiest ones for parents to spot. If you suspect that your child or even you might have some of these factors that have stemmed from your childhood, please call us to schedule an examination to diagnose and explore treatment options.
Park Dental is located at 302-2018 Sherwood Drive, Sherwood Park Alberta T8A 5V3 (beside the Sherwood Park Mall). Dr. Ian Man, phone 780-467-2444.