Pulling Teeth… Losing Face?

Featured in the Summer 2017 edition of the Guernsey Now magazine.

Have you ever wondered whether the way we look is genetic, or do other factors play a role in the development of overcrowded teeth, crooked smiles, or cheeks and lips that sink in with age? When we study the development and growth of faces, and particularly our jaws, we find many dynamics that have a profound effect on the outcome of our adult facial image.

The size of our lower jaw is genetically determined. However, the upper jaw grows and develops under the direct influence of muscle and air pressure. Every time we swallow or breathe, pressure is placed on the bone of the upper jaw. The jaw then grows in the direction if which these pressures are exerted.

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When we swallow correctly, our tongue presses against the palate, flattening it out to help develop our jaw width – the wider our upper jaw, the fuller our lips and cheekbones appear in adulthood. When we breathe through our nose, the difference in air pressure between the nose and mouth also helps to shape the upper jaw. These factors have a significant impact as we develop, particularly during the growth spurt years. For our jaws to develop correctly, we need to swallow properly and breathe through our noses.

Incorrect feeding techniques, bottle-feeding, dummies/pacifiers, thumb sucking and mouth breathing habits all disturb the natural balanced development and growth of our jaws. The result of these factors in all instances is a narrowed and underdeveloped upper jaw, leaving little room for our teeth to erupt. We then find that the teeth become crowded, misaligned and sometimes impacted. It also impedes the position of the lower jaw, forcing it backwards, sideways or both, causing the teeth to settle into an unnatural and irregular bite.

The narrow upper jaw, as well as the lower jaw trapped in a backwards position, has a dramatic effect on the appearance of our face, as well as the health of the joint of our lower jaw. The face appears narrow and long, and the chin looks small and set back. It gives the appearance of the front teeth protruding, when in fact it often is an illusion created by the lower jaw angled too far back. Headaches, clicking jaws, tooth grinding and breathing issues like snoring often arise from this unfortunate development.

Traditionally, crowding in the mouth has been treated by extracting healthy teeth to make more room, especially for impacted teeth. Pulling teeth out narrows our smile even further and can cause caved in chins and cheeks with age. However, advances in technology and techniques have now made it possible to gently stimulate and alter the shape and size of the jaw bones, to allow significant widening so teeth can erupt naturally. These new techniques make it possible to treat patients without the trauma of extracting healthy teeth, and restore the jaws and face to a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.

We frequently have parents contact our practice with concerns that their child’s teeth appear crowded or some adult teeth are not erupting. More often than not, these concerns are validated and we are delighted to provide a free consultation and advice service for all children. We can often correct adult crowding in a similar manner. If teeth have already been extracted, implants can often be placed once the widening process is complete.

Contact Stefan Cloete at QRDC for an appointment to discuss the possibilities of a wider, brighter and more beautiful smile that nature intended, together with the health benefits that go with it.

Before Widening Treatment

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After Widening Treatment

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