The development of the face and jaws to their full genetic potential is a critical part of growth. When the face and jaws do not form correctly, a wide range of problems can arise, including effects on the facial profile, the mid-face region, jaw health, airway development and even the position and alignment of teeth.
And while most people do not realize the impacts of impaired jaw growth, jaw development problems are widespread. But, even though these issues are common, many people do not know they even have a problem – that is, until it manifests into something more severe such as migraines, problems with the teeth and gums, painful jaw conditions like TMD, and sleep breathing disorders like obstructive sleep apnea.
But jaw development issues can be overcome with treatment. One of the treatments we offer to correct jaw development issues at Restore Modern Dentistry is developmental orthodontics.
Developmental orthodontics focuses on identifying and treating the deficiency of jaw growth that has contributed to unbalanced bites and crowded teeth. By addressing these issues first, this treatment ensures that the smile and the jaws beneath the smile are correctly aligned and stable. The developmental orthodontics approach prevents most unnecessary extractions, surgery and TMJ issues, and leads to improved overall health.
How Is Developmental Orthodontics Different From Traditional Orthodontics?
Traditional orthodontics address the smile within the jaw size given. If there is a deficiency in jaw size, tooth extractions usually are required to align the smile. If the discrepancy is too large, surgery is often recommended for correction. If the smile is aligned without observation and diagnosis of the deficiency and the underlying causes, then complications such as relapse, TMJ pain, poor posture, headaches, migraines and other chronic conditions can develop.
What Causes Jaw Development Problems?
There are three leading causes attributed to problems with jaw size and orientation:
Chronic Mouth Breathing
Mouth breathing is a result of various factors. It can impair jaw development because breathing through the mouth requires lowering the tongue from the mouth’s roof, reducing the force on the palate from the tongue. This prevents the palate from growing to its intended size.
Poor Tongue Posture
If your tongue is not correctly postured in the roof of the mouth, an improper swallowing pattern of the tongue can develop. This improper position happens because the forces of the tongue necessary for proper growth are placed elsewhere.
Poor Lip Seal
Proper tension from our facial muscles plays a direct role in the development of our jaws as well. When we don’t posture our lips together, our facial muscles’ tension changes and the bones are not signaled to respond and develop fully.
Other causes include:
- Myofunctional (tongue) habits
- Poor oral behaviors, such as prolonged pacifier use or thumb sucking
Symptoms of Jaw Development Problems
When the maxilla isn’t supported, it tends to drift down and back. As the mandible, in turn, responds, the face below the nose becomes much longer.
A Gummy Smile
As the maxilla drifts down, the gums covering the jaw above the upper teeth become more visible. This results in more of the gums showing when the patient smiles.
When jaws are smaller than they should be, there’s less room for the teeth to erupt. This results in crowding of the teeth; impacted wisdom teeth are common as well.
When the tongue doesn’t support the upper jaw, it becomes far more narrow and results in a “vaulted palate.” This situation typically results in a smaller nasal passage as well.
Forward Head Posture
When the jaws are further back, the tongue will be as well. When the tongue is also back, it makes the airway smaller, requiring the patient to lean forward to breathe normally.
When the upper jaw drifts down and back, the lower jaw responds and angles down, creating a higher angle to the jaw and resulting in a “weaker chin.”
The muscles of the face stabilize a “bad bite” due to improper development of the jaws. The more the muscles work, the more symptoms a patient will have.
TMJ pain is most often a result of a poor jaw position and the adaptive changes made to maintain the bite. It’s a symptom resulting from the lower jaw’s undesired position.
Correction is possible at any age. By capitalizing on remaining growth in a younger child, or the body’s residual ability to remodel even as an adult, we can correct much of the deficiency and your associated symptoms.
Correction only begins with a proper diagnosis. This requires diagnostic records (pictures, notes, 3D X-ray and a digital scan), and it all results in a 3D cephalometric analysis along with a review by a maxillofacial radiologist. With this information, we can form a plan with confidence.
Once we receive the diagnosis and associated plan, we may recommend a simple restoration appliance appropriate for you and your age. These appliances help reorient and resize the associated jaw(s) and the identified discrepancies to put the mid-face back on track.
Controlled Arch Orthodontics was designed to correct the bite and realign the smile after developmental discrepancies are corrected. Most orthodontic approaches only retract teeth or pull them back toward the molars. Controlled Arch Orthodontics allows us to protract or move teeth forward.