Jaw misalignment can have a bigger impact than you may realize.
We use our jaws almost constantly to eat, speak, express our emotions, and even swallow. Despite this near-constant use, we don’t often think about them—we just trust them to do their jobs! When we do think about our jaws, it’s easy to view them as independent from the rest of the body, but they’re just as connected as any other joint. This means that when your child has jaw misalignment, it can lead to a surprising range of problems, many of which can impact their sleep patterns and the way they feel every day.
When your child isn’t sleeping well, it shows—the resulting fatigue impacts their mood and causes them to act hyperactive or very obviously exhausted. All of this can make it difficult for them to concentrate in school and learn new information even if they’re trying. The good news, though, is that treating a jaw misalignment can improve or resolve many of these problems, helping your child feel better in ways you may not expect! To help you understand just how big of an impact these treatments can have on your child’s daily life, we’ve put together a list of 5 problems most people don’t know are caused by jaw misalignment.
Dental Wear and Injuries
The enamel protecting our teeth is incredibly durable. It’s part of what allows teeth to last for a lifetime when they’re cared for properly. It does tend to be brittle, though, so it can chip, crack, or break when enough force is applied to it. And teeth are more than capable of wearing each other down. This is exactly what can happen when your child’s bite is misaligned.
Jaw misalignment impacts the way your child chews, causing some of their teeth to wear more quickly than others. It also makes them more likely to suffer from bruxism, which is when they habitually clench or grind their teeth. Bruxism exerts a lot of force on teeth and risks chipping, cracking, or breaking them, but it can also cause your child’s teeth to wear down more quickly than they should. Over time this can lead to discomfort, emergencies, and procedures your child wouldn’t otherwise need.
Resolving your child’s malocclusion evens out the way their teeth come together and lets their jaws relax into a more comfortable position, making them less likely to clench or grind their teeth. This cuts down on the chance of dental injuries and excessive wear, which in turn helps their teeth stay healthier.
Our jaws and airways are integrally connected, so the position of your child’s jaws can impact how open their airway is. Everyone’s jaws have an ideal position where they’re able to fully relax while keeping their airway as open as possible. This ideal position helps your child breathe easy and reduces joint and muscle strain. When your child’s jaw isn’t in an ideal position, however, it can cause their airway to narrow. This can contribute to obstructive sleep apnea, especially when paired with weak muscles in their mouth or throat.
For some patients, resolving malocclusion is a permanent way to open up the airway, stopping snoring and relieving or even eliminating symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. Since sleep apnea has a range of symptoms, including fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and increased risk of anxiety, depression, and heart disease, even a reduction in symptoms can improve the way your child feels. Everyone’s case is unique, so it’s always wise to seek out an orthodontic evaluation to see if resolving your child’s malocclusion could help. Because this connection is prevalent in kids and treatment could transform your child’s daily life, it’s worth looking into!
Improper Swallowing and Poor Oral Posture
A misaligned bite can also lead to issues in oral posture and the way your child swallows, In short, it impacts the way the facial muscles work together. Improper swallowing, which is when the tongue presses against or between your teeth as you swallow instead of against the roof of your mouth, can lead to problems of its own. After all, that’s a lot of daily, repeated pressure against your child’s teeth. Poor oral posture, when the tongue rests by pressing against the upper or lower teeth, can be more harmful because it’s constant. These issues can lead to problems like an open bite, protrusion, and mouth breathing.
Although these behaviors are subconscious, they’re not impossible to change! If your child has one or both of these issues, you can pair your child’s orthodontic treatment with myofunctional therapy, which is as simple as exercising their face and jaw muscles every day. This retrains them to move the way they’re meant to and works with orthodontic treatment. Since these behaviors can continue to shift your child’s teeth even after they’ve had braces, this is sometimes an essential but simple step for long-term results.
There are two main ways that jaw misalignment can cause gastrointestinal issues. The first is improper swallowing. Improper swallowing often causes your child to swallow air, and that air causes gastrointestinal symptoms like stomach aches, bloating, and loss of appetite. The second way involves how your child chews. The first step of digestion begins in your child’s mouth, so if they’re unable to chew as thoroughly as they would with an even bite, poor digestion can result. Bigger pieces of food are harder for your child’s digestive system to break down, leading to stomach aches and even poor nutrition despite a healthy diet.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
A misaligned bite can put more stress on your child’s jaw when they chew or cause bruxism, both of which can lead to symptoms of TMJ disorder. These include jaw pain or stiffness that makes eating and speaking difficult as well as lesser symptoms like frequent headaches, sore muscles, earaches, dizziness, and more. These symptoms can make it difficult for your child to fall or stay asleep, impacting the amount and quality of sleep they get each night.
Not every child with a misaligned bite will struggle with TMJ disorder, but if so, orthodontic treatment might be the key. When treatment is complete, your child will likely sleep more soundly at night and feel better during the day!
Comprehensive Care for Malocclusion
At Must Love Kids, we know just how important it is to ensure that your child receives comprehensive care for their jaw misalignment. Orthodontics isn’t always the full solution to your child’s jaw misalignment—they may need additional treatment, such as myofunctional therapy, to gain the full, long-term benefits of their orthodontic treatment. If they need this aspect of treatment but don’t receive it through comprehensive care, their teeth can begin shifting back into their previous positions after braces are removed.
A vital aspect of giving your child the best result possible is catching these issues early, so it’s important to see a pediatric dentist in Vancouver, WA, like Dr. G and Dr. Mo, who are trained to look for jaw misalignment and malocclusion. They know what signs to look for in your child and will help set you up with needed resources. This makes Dr. G and Dr. Mo vital resources for you in the effort to make sure your child gets the best comprehensive care possible.
Jaw misalignment can significantly impact your child’s daily life, but early diagnosis and treatment can provide results that transform the way your child feels. If you’re ready to take the first step toward determining if your child needs orthodontic treatment, feel free to schedule an appointment with Dr. G or Dr. Mo at any time.