Over four million people in America wear braces at any given time. The average person needs them to straighten and correctly align their teeth and jaws, but did you know there are many other reasons for seeking orthodontic treatment? Orthodontic care is a wonderful solution when improper alignment creates problems with chewing and eating, but it can also improve your overall health and quality of life in many other ways.
In addition to straightening teeth, orthodontists also correct mouth and jaw structure to treat a wide variety of other problems. Some common reasons you may seek orthodontic care include grinding and clenching teeth, jaw pain, TMJ, and gum disease. Even if the problem is that your child bites their cheek a lot or has a tough time closing their lips all the way, orthodontic treatment may be able to help.
Although it may not be obvious that the structure of your mouth or teeth is the problem, certain causes of breathing issues, sleep apnea, and speech impediments can also be corrected by an orthodontist. Other conditions such as cleft lip, cleft palate, and other craniofacial disorders may also require orthodontic care. If you or your child deal with the daily reality of any of these problems or conditions, you know that they negatively impact many areas of your life.
If the roof of your mouth, called the palate, is too narrow it could cause breathing disorders. Normally, a person breathes through their nose, with their mouth closed. However, a narrow palate makes this difficult, so a person with this problem will usually hold their mouth open to breathe. This can create a number of issues, from dry lips to snoring to feeling drowsy throughout the day. When your mouth is always open, it can also make your airways more irritated and cause you to be more susceptible to airborne colds and viruses, and prone to sinus or ear infections.
A narrow palate could also cause sleep apnea, which is a condition where breathing stops and starts repeatedly throughout the night. Snoring, waking up with a dry mouth or headache, excessive sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and irritability are common ways that sleep apnea impacts a person.
Mouth breathing doesn’t seem like that big of a deal until you take into consideration its possible side effects. A sleepy, irritable child who has difficulty concentrating and seems to get every illness around them is going to have a much harder time while growing up than a healthy, happy child will. Luckily, when the cause is a narrow palate, if identified and treated early, mouth breathing and sleep apnea can often be reversed.
Since mouth breathing and sleep apnea impact mood and concentration, and can cause sleep disorders and chronic illnesses, it is important to have your child evaluated. This is one of the many reasons that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have their first orthodontic evaluation by age 7. Early treatment allows us to guide your child’s jaw and mouth formation, and correct harmful oral habits before they become worse. Additionally, waiting until your child is older often means that treatment will require more time and money to correct the problem.
There are many reasons your child may grind their teeth and some may be fixed with orthodontic treatment. Many children temporarily grind while baby teeth or permanent teeth are growing in, and this is not usually a cause for concern. However, when grinding is caused by poor tooth alignment or certain sleep disorders, we need to develop a treatment plan to fix the cause and help your child stop grinding.
Why is it important to correct the cause of tooth grinding? It wears down teeth more quickly and can also cause them to crack and chip. Beyond that, it can cause the teeth, face, and jaw to be sensitive and painful and it can even cause severe headaches. If your child is frequently in pain, it is likely to lead to poor sleep and difficulty concentrating which will negatively impact their mood, behavior, and performance in school and extracurricular activities.
Poor alignment is a common cause of speech impediments. Overbites and underbites can prevent the correct formation of sounds. In addition to making it difficult to speak correctly, speech impediments may cause low self-esteem, making the pre-teen and teenage years difficult. A speech therapist can help some children, but a good orthodontist can help improve or eliminate speech impediments by correcting the tooth or jaw problems causing the difficulty forming sounds. Early treatment to correct the problem will help your child avoid the self-consciousness that often comes from sounding different.
Craniofacial disorders, including cleft lip and cleft palate, often have a significant impact on the development of the teeth and mouth. Cleft lip or palate occurs when a baby’s upper lip or roof of the mouth do not fuse together as they develop in the womb. A child born with a craniofacial disorder is treated by a team of specialists, which includes a pediatric dentist and orthodontist. Treatment usually begins in infancy and continues through adolescence.
Children with cleft lip or palate are more vulnerable to tooth decay because their tooth enamel may be weak in areas, and their saliva may be thicker and less effective. This makes it even more important to maintain excellent oral hygiene and be diligent about regular checkups and cleanings. Difficulty eating or speaking clearly, ear infections, and dental issues are other common problems associated with cleft lip and palate. Once permanent teeth erupt, some may be missing, irregular or discolored.
Each child is different, and treatment will vary based on your child’s needs. It may include appliances to mold the gum and palate, braces, crowns, or a bone graft. A good pediatric dental and orthodontic team will guide the formation of your child’s teeth and jaw to minimize these difficulties and help them feel safe and comfortable while being treated. Since a child with a craniofacial disorder will see their dentist and orthodontist frequently from infancy through adolescence, it is important to find a dental home where they feel safe and can enjoy visiting. Our team at Jungle Roots believes that every child is special, and while every child has different needs, they should all have a positive experience. As a board-certified pediatric dentist, Dr. Culp has over twenty years of experience in handling a wide variety of children’s needs and he specializes in calming techniques which alleviate anxiety and help ensure that patients remain relaxed during their visit.
When dental issues negatively impact your child’s health and quality of life, the cause can be corrected by excellent orthodontic and dental care. Our caring, energetic team and fun jungle-themed office are designed to care for your child’s oral health while encouraging trust and cooperation, and we offer orthodontic services to keep all your child’s dental services where they are already comfortable. Beginning treatment when you first notice a problem allows us to guide the formation of your child’s jaw and mouth and correct harmful oral habits to minimize the impact on your child’s health and smile.
If you think that anyone in your family has any of the conditions discussed in this article, we would be privileged to schedule a complimentary orthodontic consultation to discover if orthodontic treatment can help them. Problems with your mouth, jaw, or alignment impact far more than just your smile. They can cause chronic pain and illnesses which could be cured with orthodontic treatment. It is never too early or too late to begin the path to excellent health and a better quality of life!
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At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.