As parents, we always try to do the best for our kids. We believe in breastfeeding; many health-conscious parents go out of their way to find organic, natural, non-GMO food to provide their kids with the best, safest nutrition. And though we put in that extra effort, there are times we are unable to provide the best for our children. We all know that nutrition and an active lifestyle play a significant role in raising healthy children. However, many of us are unaware of a significant issue our kids may face—being able to breath regularly. We can live without food for more than a week and without water for up to three days, but we cannot live without breathing for more than four minutes.
Being a dentist, I was urged to send my patients to an orthodontist whenever I notice crowded or crooked teeth in 7–8-year-old kids. So why am I seeing so many adult patients in their 30s and 40s with crowded teeth? Many of these patients have told me that as kids, they had braces for 2–4 years. This information led me to research this phenomenon further, as I have kids and also have many children as patients. Do I want the same thing happening to them? As I delved deeper, I realized this journey was leading me to look at the source of crowded/crooked teeth.
Why Breastfeeding Matters in Dental Health
When a baby is breastfed, it is not only about the nutrition, it is also about how their muscles are activated. Their muscles of their cheeks, tongue, and lips are all engaged, and the tongue presses firmly against the palate as well. The tongue is constantly at work, helping babies’ upper jaws grow and expand, which leads to the lower jaw expanding as well. Unfortunately, the same is not true for bottle feeding. In bottle feeding, babies are using the muscles differently, the tongue is not in the roof of the mouth, and the mouth is almost like “fish mouth,” causing negative pressure. In such a situation, the palate is not expanding as significantly as with breastfeeding, leaving less space for teeth. Many children in this situation grow adults with narrow jaws.
When the jaw becomes narrow and grows upward rather than growing wide and sideways, the nasal bone has less space to grow downward and results in a deviated septum and associated airway issues. Children with this condition are not able to breathe properly at night; they are sleeping restlessly and waking up numerous times at night, causing them to be cranky and difficult to get out of bed in the morning. Some children may respond to this poor sleep by being hyperactive as a means of staying awake during the day. When we as adults are sleep deprived, we may be grumpy, lethargic, and unable to function, and the same is true for children. When kids are not sleeping properly, however, they are often misdiagnosed, labeled, and put on medications they don’t need, when the real solution is ensuring they are getting the sleep they need.
Early Intervention in Kids to Produce Healthy Adults
By age 4, children have about 60% of the facial skeleton growth they will have as adults; by age 12, they have reached 90% growth. Early intervention is the best thing we can do for our children—when they get early treatment, we can facilitate the growth instead of fighting against it. Straightening teeth will not help with breathing issues in the long term, as we are not treating the issue that caused these crooked teeth in the first place. Teaching kids myofunctional therapy—exercising the tongue so the pressure exerted by the tongue is balanced by the lips and cheeks—is a very effective way to treat the issue. Teaching them to use their own muscles to expand their jaws will facilitate the growth to help them achieve better breathing.
In this process, we are evaluating children’s facial skeleton growth and airway and treating them accordingly—we are not forcing their body into something unnatural, but helping them grow to have healthy lives. We treat kids so that when they become adults they could avoid being on CPAP machines and having other health issues.
Sleep-disordered breathing is very common in children. Some signs your kids may have disordered breathing are mouth-breathing, snoring, lips open at rest, forward head posture to facilitate breathing, restless sleep, hyperactivity, lethargy, crowding of teeth, and dark circles under their eyes. Early intervention in oral health and proper growth can help your kids breathe easier and live healthier.
At our office, we use Myobrace and ALF, which are gentle devices to achieve this kind of growth and development in children. Check out our case gallery to see some of the patient’s changes after treatment: https://www.drjaydental.com/case-gallery.
Dr. Krithika Jayaprakash DDS, FAGD, NMD, IBDM. Naturopathic dentist specializing in ceramic implants and all your dental needs. Dr. Jay Dental, 170 Union St., Vernon, CT 06066. 860.875.3349. drjaydental.com.