Treat Jaw Growth Issues in Children

Orthodontists say that a number of what many parents consider “bad habits” in children aren’t harmful if the child eventually outgrows them.

But persistent habits such as mouth breathing, sucking on thumbs, fingers or pacifiers and even incorrect swallowing patterns can not only affect a child’s teeth alignment, but also can alter the growth pattern of their jaws.

That is one reason why the American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children be evaluated by an orthodontist by the time they reach age 7. Detection can pave the way for correction before they cause extensive damage.

Mouth Breathing

Breathing through the mouth may seem innocent enough, but this can be an indicator of airway problems, she said. Prolonged mouth breathing can lead to the upper and lower jaws growing improperly because of improper tongue, cheek and lip forces.

Orthodontists have mentioned that if the muscles, the teeth and the bone are working against each other, the muscles always will win. Fortunately, there are treatment methods we can apply to get those three working in cooperation with each other.

When parents notice a child mouth breathing chronically, she recommends consulting an ear/nose/throat physician for correction and treatment methods, followed by a consultation with an orthodontist to determine whether orthodontic treatment is needed.

According to some studies that has taken by osteologist, mouth breathing also can affect the growth of the palate, which can cause it to become narrower over time.

Sucking Habits

In addition, it is common for babies to suck on a pacifier or on their thumbs and fingers because it is a natural reflex, according to the American Dental Association ( It also serves several purposes; including making them feel happy, secure and relaxed. Most children stop sucking these items by the time they are 4 years old.

It is important that they cease the habit by the time their adult teeth erupt. Depending on how intensely a child sucks, prolonged sucking beyond this point can lead to teeth alignment problems, jaw discrepancies and can alter the roof of the mouth, she said.

In children who suck their thumbs intensely, parents should consult an orthodontist if they notice that it has altered their children’s baby teeth.

Orthodontists believe that persistent suckers may need some help breaking the habit. If the habit proves too difficult to break, there are orthodontic treatments, such as installing a mouth appliance that takes away the soothing sensation gained by thumb sucking, she said.

Improper Swallowing Habits

According to some Osteology’s studies, improper swallowing can create problems with the position of the lower jaw, such as open bites and upper jaw and teeth protrusion. When a child has a problem swallowing properly, it causes the muscles involved in swallowing to tighten, which creates jaw tension and other problems. Over time, this can force the lower jaw backward to compensate.

Also some orthodontists say that, this is another problem that often can be treated with orthodontics. There are appliances available that can help correct improper swallowing patterns, and we also recommend speech therapy, which can help children learn where to place their tongue while swallowing and talking.