Have you ever wondered why teeth come in crooked?
Is it really down to bad genes? If so, how much of those genes determine the outcome of our growth and development? Could it be multifactorial – diet, lifestyle/ environment etc.?
When jawbones do not grow and develop well in childhood, they leave less than sufficient space for adult teeth to grow into. This “condition” is referred to as an underdeveloped craniofacial structure.
These insufficient spaces then result in:
- Teeth making ways for itself to grow into any available spaces, misaligning and overcrowding
- Milk teeth remaining over-retained for a slightly more extended period
What's the big deal about having crooked teeth?
- Definitely, aesthetically it may not be as pleasing
- Occlusal biting points are imbalanced, which then, in turn, could result in other further issues (e.g. unilateral chewing habit, TMD etc.)
- Oral hygiene – brushing well on all tooth surfaces maybe a little more tedious and requires more time and attention spared
Possible causes of underdevelopment of craniofacial structures
A childhood history of thumb-sucking and
An early indicator and showing symptoms for poor oral habit development.
Mouth breathing and its implications
Why is breathing through the mouth a bad thing?
Apart from a change in physical characteristics and features, here are some of the negative effects of mouth breathing:
- It dries out of the oral cavity – dry mouth, lips and saliva
- Plaque formation hardens on the tooth surface area – tougher stains to remove
- Loading up on non-filtered/ non-humidified air into body’s system
- Breathing – shallow and laboured (habitual)
- Lack of “flushing” in the nasal passage – increased risk of Rhinitis/ Sinusitis
Can you identify a mouth breather?
The common characteristic of mouth-breathers:
The obvious sign to spot a mouth breather would be an open lip posture which would be their natural state. Mouth breathers may also complain of nasal allergies. These allergies happen due to the negative effects we have listed above.
Apart from these, you may also notice the following physical characteristics in inherent mouth breathers:
Proper facial growth and development of someone who practices nasal breathing:
The deeper ill-effects of underdeveloped craniofacial structures
Besides crooked teeth, an underdeveloped craniofacial structure could potentially compromise the airway.
A compromised airway leads to compensated breathing and sleep-related breathing disorders, e.g. snoring and grinding/ clenching, sleep apnoea in both the young and old. Grinding and clenching could cause wear & tear on the tooth enamel layer and even potentially result in cracked or chipped tooth structure itself.
Habit Correction via Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (OMT)
The purpose of Myofunctional Therapy
- To treat poor oral habits in facial growth and development, we teach patients a series of activities and exercises. These exercises train the muscles in the mouth to move and rest properly.
- To encourage the proper craniofacial growth and development – jawbones and teeth, and
- To ensure that we breathe and sleep well,
- To achieve the added benefit of having a healthy smile
Through Myofunctional Therapy, we aim to restore and maintain proper oral habits, which include:
- Establishing Nasal Breathing
- Bringing the lips together at rest
- Upward Tongue resting posture in the palate
- Better mindfulness of chewing and swallowing habits
Understanding Myofunctional Therapy
Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (OMT), also known as neuromuscular re-education of the oral facial muscles, is a modality that promotes the stability of the stomatognathic system.
Studies have been done for centuries to understand the relationship between form and function.
When the tongue is resting against the hard palate (thus maintaining the proper oral volume), it enhances and creates stability for the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). Suppose the tongue is habitually resting down and forward in the mandible because of a lack of patency of the airway or excessive use of bottles, pacifiers, thumb-sucking or a restricted frenum. These habits disrupt normal function.
While a primary function of the tongue is to protect the airway, improper oral resting posture of the tongue will have a negative influence on the development of the oral cavity. Add a modern diet of soft (which may lead to low muscle tone by diminishing the frequency and intensity of chewing) and processed foods to the equation.
A smaller oral volume that results may not support proper upper airways, the stability of the TMJs, or the development of optimal dental arches.
The goals for the patient are to become aware of and eliminate harmful habits and achieve nasal breathing, lip seal, and proper chewing.