Jaw development can have a profound impact on the strength, alignment, and appearance of the teeth. Malocclusion, which includes conditions such as overbite and underbite, crossbite, tooth crowding, and gaps in between teeth, is not typically genetic. However, feeding behaviors early in life, mouth breathing habits due to allergies or nasal issues during childhood, and trauma can all impact proper jaw development and encourage bite problems later in life.
By birth, the human jaw is almost 50% of its adult size and, with most of our jaw growth occurring within the first four years of life – the average person’s jaw will have reached 80% of its adult size by age six. Because most development occurs during infancy and early childhood, malocclusion may be obvious as early as 18 months, though crooked teeth in toddlers is not necessarily a clear indication that jaw development is needed, it is a red flag.
One of the most effective ways to encourage proper jaw development is through breastfeeding or using a bottle with a nipple that has been designed to accommodate normal jaw growth. Breastfeeding requires a coordinated effort between the perioral musculature and the tongue, encouraging proper development of the oral cavity and the airways. What’s more, breastfeeding prompts the epiglottis to interlock with the soft palate, allowing babies to breathe normally while eating. These things can have a profound impact on jaw development and a lasting impact on oral health. Interestingly, many times Mom's state that their child could not latch or cannot keep milk down. When this happens, most of the the issue is tongue tie, a very oft overlooked problem.
Thumb sucking and poorly designed bottles can encourage tongue thrust and produce an abnormal swallowing pattern. They may also encourage overjet, push teeth into a crooked presentation, and alter the shape of the entire oral cavity. In addition to altering the shape of the soft palate, thumb sucking and bottle-feeding can lead to an underdeveloped lower jaw (maxilla) and impact the entire face during growth.
Houston dentist Dr. Ronald Konig strongly encourages parents to be aware of these issues and take every step to help intercept these issues as well as prevent children from adopting the habit of thumb sucking. However, even the most responsible child may experience irregular jaw growth due to airway issues. Please take note of mouthbreathing and snoring issues which are not normal and are detrimntal to proper airway, jaw, and facial development. In these cases, Dr. Konig may recommend an anterior growth guidance appliance or myofunctional therapy. In many cases, these services can also be combined to help improve outcomes.
Anterior Growth Guidance Appliance
Dr. Konig offers both fixed and removable anterior growth guidance appliances at our Houston office. Anterior growth guidance appliances help expand the upper jaw to produce a more natural and comfortable shape. Fixed appliances serve to open airways and address TMJ. Removable appliances serve to create space for adult teeth while encouraging proper development of facial features. It is most common for children to be fitted with removable appliances.
Following the completion of treatment with a removable anterior growth guidance appliance, orthodontic services are usually required to straighten the teeth. Dr. Konig will discuss this eventuality with you along with all of your orthodontic options during your initial consultation.
Fixed appliances, more common for adults, will remain in place to continue encouraging proper airflow, oral cavity shape, and tongue positioning. These can help to recreate proper airway which is very often compromised from the deep bites and causes TMJ issues in adults.
If you live in or around Houston, Texas and are interested in learning about myofunctional therapy or if you believe you could benefit from an anterior growth guidance appliance or orthodontic treatment, call us at 713-668-2289 to schedule a consultation today. Located in Houston, Dr. Konig welcomes patients from The Woodlands, Katy, Sugar Land, Conroe, and all surrounding communities.