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The Underdevelopment of the Maxilla: When Poor Function Leads to Poor Form
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During adolescent growth, the development of the craniofacial structure is complex and influenced not only by genetics but also by epigenetic factors such as tonsillar and adenoid hypertrophy, upper airway obstruction, mouth breathing, tongue and thumb habits and tongue ties. Additionally, oral habits such as thumb sucking and tongue posture have a profound influence on the intended jaw development.
The modality of breathing has the ability to directly affect the development of the maxilla and mandible. Compensations made as a result of upper airway obstruction can be detrimental to craniofacial development if not addressed during this critical growth period. Upper airway obstruction leads to mouth breathing along with the classic presentation of the “long face syndrome” that includes increased anterior face height, a constricted maxilla and often an anterior open bite. Airway obstruction, when sleeping can result in a multitude of sleep disorders affecting not only jaw development but the patient’s overall health.
The dentist is in a unique position to identify the signs and symptoms of abnormal growth patterns and investigate their origins. Treatment often involves an interdisciplinary approach focused on not only correcting the problem but also on changing habitual behaviors.
· Understand how poor oral habits and compensations lead to improper growth and development
· Investigate the cause and effect of tonsillar hypertrophy, upper airway obstruction and mouth breathing on craniofacial growth and development
· Understand tongue posture and function and the effect on the development of the upper and lower arches
· Learn the importance of timely interceptive orthodontic treatment of aberrant jaw growth