If you think more and more kids are in need of orthodontics – and maybe your own are, too – it’s not your imagination.
Whether it be Invisalign or traditional orthodontics, it’s true that orthodontics have become a more common occurrence among kids – and the real reason may surprise you. Today, the reasons behind the need for orthodontics are more health-related than just an effort to have perfect teeth on every child, according to Dr. Jim Otten, DDS, of James Otten Dentistry, which provides the best integrative approach to dental health in Lawrence, KS.
“Not too many years ago, what we looked at when we looked at orthodontics was just how the teeth matched up,” said Dr. Otten. “It’s really not too difficult to get straight teeth, but there are a lot of other things to think about other than just the teeth being straight.”
If you’re considering orthodontics for an adult or child, Dr. Otten said there are four concerns that need to be answered in any orthodontic approach:
- Can we make the teeth fit together with each other properly?
- Can we make the teeth fit in the face properly?
- Can we make the teeth fit in harmony with proper jaw position and support the jaw joint?
- Can we make the teeth fit in a way or form them in a way that supports proper airway?
First, Dr. Otten said, the teeth not only have to fit with each other very well but also have to fit in the face very well. Teeth need to be positioned to support the lips and cheeks to have a great smile so that the display of the teeth when the child smiles is adequate because, as time goes on and people age, they show less and less teeth, he explained.
Next, teeth also must support the jaw joints, a critical factor that has come to the forefront only in the past 10 to 20 years. For our orthodontic patients, James Otten Dentistry will evaluate your jaw joints by looking at the imaging to make sure that the cartilage disc is in place. That way, we can move the teeth to support and work in harmony with the proper jaw positioning. According to Dr. Otten, this is a critical factor – if this is done during adolescence, it can mean better health for the individual throughout his or her lifetime.
Another orthodontics consideration, also fairly recent, is making sure the teeth work with the proper airway. This issue affects a person’s overall health.
“What’s actually happened in Western cultures is that our jaws have become smaller over the last few generations. Specifically, the upper jaws have become smaller,” Dr. Otten explained. “Western nations have smaller jaws. We think it’s two things: 1. We think it’s because there’s been a significant reduction in the amount of breast feeding. Not only is breast-feeding good for a lot of reasons in terms of nutrition, host resistance and bacterial resistance, but also the function of that helps form the upper jaw in a more profound way. It rounds the upper jaw and leaves space for the tongue.”
While the percentage of Western mothers who breast-fed in 2000 was around 70%, and has actually risen since (80% in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), about 40% of mothers who breastfeed do so for less than three months. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and then continued breastfeeding combined with solid foods for two years.
As fewer Western women opted to breast-feed and continued to breast-feed until the baby was one year old, along with the addition of baby food, jaws have become smaller over the generations. According to Dr. Otten, the reason is because baby food doesn’t stimulate much chewing action, and the chewing action of firmer foods, combined with the action of the tongue specifically, is what helps to form a wider upper jaw.
“There are a lot of kids that are developing narrow upper jaws, and the lower jaw develops in a narrow fashion as well and it crowds the tongue, so there are airway and breathing issues,” he explained. “This is so critical in conditions like ADD, ADHD, allergies and asthma – there’s a whole plethora of things kids go through that’s related to their inability to properly breathe.”
For more information or questions about dental health in Lawrence or anywhere else, please reach out to Dr. Otten at James Otten Dentistry, 785.843.6404. Let’s discuss how we can improve your smile, which in turn will improve your overall health and well-being. Call us today for a complimentary consultation or a free second opinion for any dental case. For the best dental health in Lawrence, you can trust James Otten Dentistry.