Orthodontists Evaluate More than Just Your Teeth
Did you know that your braces won’t be as effective if mouth breathing isn’t addressed? Mouth breathing, the tongue, and your bite are just a few factors they take into consideration. Mouth breathing can affect the position of your teeth and your bite. When the mouth is open, the lips are weak and there’s no external support for the teeth. The tongue simultaneously pushes forward, progressively moving the teeth over time. This can cause problems with orthodontic treatment. Time spent in braces will be longer and the chance that the results won’t be permanent is far higher.
The tongue can have a profound impact on the development of both the mouth and the teeth. It should rest on the roof of the mouth and provide the internal support system for the upper jaw. When someone tends to breathe through their mouth or has a tongue thrust, the tongue will rest at the bottom of the mouth and the internal support system is nonexistent. Along with the lack of support, if the tongue is resting against the front teeth when we swallow, it pushes forward. This forward motion will then cause the teeth to move. As this swallowing pattern is repeated consistently, the position of the tongue will cause the teeth to grow crooked. They tend to be more widely spaced and angled towards the lips. This creates an open bite which means the top and bottom teeth don’t overlap.
Braces at a Young Age
Once a child is ready to have braces, the dental problems caused by a tongue thrust will be a concern during and after the orthodontic treatment. This is because the muscular issues haven’t actually been addressed. Having a tongue thrust and mouth breathing will make treatment more difficult for the orthodontist, because the spaces are more challenging to close and the teeth become more difficult to align. It can also slow down the process of treatment; meaning, the braces will need to be worn for an extended period of time. Not having eliminated the habit can also make your teeth move again after the braces are removed and can lead to having braces more than one time. Myofunctional therapy is designed to address and correct these issues caused by a tongue thrust and mouth breathing to help ease the orthodontic process.
The Right Time to Start Myofunctional Therapy
Children’s faces, jaws, teeth and bodies grow and change at such incredible rates. This means that myofunctional therapy will have optimal results if done during this growth phase rather than later in life. The ideal time to start a therapy program is before the braces. However, myofunctional therapy can significantly improve the results of orthodontic treatment at any time, even when the braces are on the teeth.
Once the braces have been removed and the teeth have started to shift, it’s still not too late to start myofunctional therapy. Many of the adult patients seek out myofunctional therapy for that reason. They are in need of braces for a second or third time, but their orthodontist says they need to fix their tongue thrust first.
Clenching or grinding your teeth is a sign that there is an airway issue. When you stop breathing in your sleep, your brain sends a signal to your mouth to clench or grind so that your mouth will open. Often, it is a sign of a tongue-tie and that your tongue is sitting low in your mouth and falling back into your airway therefore cutting off the oxygen.
Orthodontists agree that the tongue can cause a lot of issues with straightening teeth. Sometimes, they will recommend a type of appliance to “tame” the tongue using spikes or a tongue rake. However, the swallowing pattern and the tongue thrust might not be permanently changed. With myofunctional therapy, I teach exercises that retrain the facial muscles and the tongue to help patients gain control of the tongue. Ultimately, this can completely eliminate tongue thrusting habits. Not only does a tongue thrust affect braces, but it also has a lasting negative impact on a person’s general health, speech, dental health, swallowing, and breathing throughout life.
- Makes treatment generally much more difficult for the orthodontist because spaces are harder to close and teeth are more difficult to align.
- Slows down your orthodontic treatment; meaning, braces need to be worn for a longer period of time.
- Makes your teeth move again after the braces are removed, which can lead to needing braces multiple times.
The tongue should rest at the roof of your mouth and help guide the growth of the upper jaw and the palate. It is also the internal support system. When someone has a tongue thrust or a mouth breathing problem, the tongue rests in the bottom of the mouth, which means that the support system simply isn’t in place. If the tongue is constantly resting against the front teeth it will push forward every time we swallow. Between the resting position and the swallowing motion, the teeth will move. As the adult teeth grow in, the tongue can cause the adult teeth to grow crooked. This can be very noticeable with a tongue thrust as the adult teeth tend to grow in more widely spaced, angled towards the lips, and in what dentists call an open bite (where the top and bottom teeth don’t overlap).
There are two main types of orthodontics: retractive (conventional) orthodontics and expansion orthodontics (or airway orthodontics, or orthotropics). Retractive or conventional orthodontics use techniques that restrict the natural growth of the maxilla and/or reduce overall space in the mouth and narrow the palate by extraction of teeth. However, expansion orthodontics focus on prioritizing the airway over merely straightening teeth. With a healthy airway, the teeth will become better aligned regardless, and there can be huge improvements in overall health as well once any airway-related issues are addressed. When I recommend my patients to see an orthodontist, I encourage them to look for an orthodontist who is focused on airways and not just straight teeth. Oftentimes, these orthodontists may recommend a variety of appliances, which can be overwhelming to know which one to pick. Ultimately, if you find someone who addresses your concerns and is focused on your airway, you’re off to a good start! Working with a myofunctional therapist can help you navigate the rest!
Do you grind your teeth? You could be tongue-tied or have a sleep breathing disorder. These are all things that I evaluate during a consultation and assessment. Want to know more? Contact me to find out how myofunctional therapy could help.
Absolutely! I work closely with dentists, pediatricians, orthodontists and other practitioners so we can address your concerns from each of our different perspectives. It’s important to me that we work as a team, so I coordinate my treatment with any other healthcare providers you’re seeing.