Submitted by Koala KIDZzz®
For most parents, braces seem to be the appropriate treatment option when their child has crooked teeth. Braces may not address all issues associated with growth and development. Crooked teeth may just be a symptom of an underlying growth concern regarding the facial bones and structures. Other possible symptoms include mouth breathing, trouble with tongue positioning during swallowing, an imbalanced lip position, thumb sucking, or lip biting. The good news is that there is more that can be done to properly guide the growth of a healthy facial structure — There is help before braces!
In this article, we will present how a proper facial profile and teeth positioning can positively affect your child’s airway, jaw joint, and very importantly, their ability to sleep, breathe, and grow well for life! This is the focus of the Koala KIDZzz® program and the Koala Center For Sleep & TMJ Disorders.
What’s the problem?
Many people view misaligned teeth and facial profiles as primarily a cosmetic issue. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is, underdeveloped facial bones can cause a child to have a narrow airway. Having a narrow airway can negatively impact two functions that are essential to human survival: breathing and sleeping. Crooked teeth, mouth breathing (see photo A. pg 20), and an underdeveloped lower jaw (see photo B. pg 20) are just a few indicators that the child could be suffering from a narrow airway.
Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) is a common term used for difficulty breathing during sleep. Symptoms of SDB include: snoring, mouth breathing, ADHD, chronic allergies, crooked teeth, restless sleeping, nightmares, bedwetting, daytime tiredness, and irritability. The good news is that often these symptoms are reduced or eliminated by correcting bad habits like mouth breathing, and improper tongue positioning, all while guiding the growth of the facial bones during sleep.
If a child has crooked or over-crowded teeth, they are more likely to feel self-conscious about their face and smile. While this embarrassment may seem small, it can have damaging, long-lasting effects on the child’s wellbeing. As parents, we have the opportunity to view and detect a few symptoms that warrant deeper consideration and action:
- Facial profile: An underdeveloped lower jaw shows a high likelihood of a narrow airway.
- Crowded teeth: As a parent, it is important that you do not assume that your child having crowded teeth won’t present additional problems. Crowded teeth are an indication that the child may have narrow arches and underdeveloped jaws. This anatomy can narrow the airway.
- Sinus issues: Most people do not consider that sinus problems and dental issues are related, but they are. If the upper arch is underdeveloped laterally, it will cause a high-vaulted roof of the mouth. When the roof of the mouth is encroaching into the sinus space, it then causes a shallow sinus cavity.
- Mouth breathing: It may sound obvious, but we are made to breathe out of our noses. Mouth breathing is not normal. However, some children are unable to breathe properly through their nose and are forced to breathe out of their mouths. While this may seem harmless, mouth breathing prevents the proper tongue and positive pressure on the oral structures. This can cause the upper dental arch to be narrow and underdeveloped. Also, there is no air filtration when you breathe through your mouth, exacerbating allergies, bronchitis, and asthma.
- Refusal to show teeth when smiling: This is a common side effect for children with crowded teeth that can carry over, even after they have corrected their smile.
How can a parent be proactive?
Many people understand the importance of preventative medicine such as vaccinations, mammograms, colonoscopies, prostate exams, and so on. Preventing disease is indeed a justified and noble concern and can save countless lives every year.
Many people also understand how critical the early developmental stages are to growing a healthy, full-grown human being. What many do not realize, however, is much of a child’s physical development is carried out during the hours of sleep. Insufficient or improper sleep can therefore lead to a myriad of problems.
As parents, we can take action and have our children screened for SDB, misaligned teeth, or other oral facial problems. Often parents wait to be told that their child needs braces; however, there are other options. While braces can effectively realign teeth, they aren’t always the complete solution.
As an article from Oral-B points out, most medical practitioners recommend braces somewhere between the ages of 10 to 14, and they must wear them for somewhere between 18 and 30 months. Waiting until your child is that old is not only putting them at risk for the symptoms we’ve been discussing, but is also missing the opportunity to affect change during the critical developmental stages from 2 to 12 years old.
Fortunately, there may be other options for your child. Koala KIDZzz® offers a series of removable, soft mouthguards that are worn while the child sleeps and grows. These mouthguards promote correct oral habits, and proper airway and facial development. In addition, with proper growth of the arches, the teeth have a fighting chance of coming in straight, reducing the amount of time needed for braces or even eliminating the need for braces all together.
When is the right time?
If your child is between the ages of 2 and 14 and exhibits any of the symptoms listed on the previous page, now is the time for evaluation. “When a child is age 2, their face is 50-percent developed. By the time they are age 12, it is 90-percent developed. We have a window of time where we can guide their growth to improve the patient’s dentition, their profile, and improve their airway,” says Dr. Rodney Willey, DDS, a Diplomate with both the Academy of Clinical Sleep Disorders Disciplines and the American Sleep and Breathing Academy.
Dr. Willey continues, “We can change a child’s future for the better in so many ways. Many times the tongue and skeletal imbalance can be permanently corrected if treated at an early age. By guiding the growth and opening the airway during the critical growth years, we can reduce or eliminate a lifetime struggle with sleep disordered breathing and TMJ disorders.”
As great as proper growth of the oral cavity is for the long-term benefits of a child, the other positive effects of proper sleep can be noticed almost immediately from the time they start treatment. Improved sleep can lead to improved emotional attitudes and better performances at home and in school.
If your child is struggling, please do not wait. Contact us today and set up a complimentary screening appointment for your child. Whether your child is already experiencing the symptoms discussed in this article, or you want to preemptively ensure that you are doing all you can for them so they don’t, our passionate team is ready to care for you.
To learn more about Koala KIDZzz® Pediatric Airway Development or to set up an appointment at the Koala Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders, visit their website at koalakidzzz.com; visit them at 11825 N. State Rt. 40, Suite 100, Dunlap; or call at 309-240-6700. Please mention this article when scheduling.