I remember being a disappointed twelve-year-old at the dentist.
No, I didn’t get the news of cavities. In my pre-teen mind, it was much worse.
Dr. Condello had just told me — *gasp*— that I did not need a referral to get braces.
UGH. Obviously Dr. C had no idea what it was like to be a twelve-year-old girl who didn’t blend in with everyone else.
Because isn’t that what it’s like these days? It’s been accepted that braces are simply a right of passage for junior high and high-schoolers. But the “braces are normal” theory couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here is the truth: teeth that are crowded and misaligned is not a teeth issue. It’s a jaw issue. Due to modern diets and other environmental factors, teeth today are more crowded and more decayed than ever (but you can read about how to help your child stay cavity-free here!)
Our jaws are shrinking, our airways have become more constricted, our teeth are decaying, and our quality of life is diminishing. Sure sounds like we need to change some things, right?
While there are no guarantees in life, I’ve made a quick-hit list of five things you can do to help you child possibly avoid braces.
- Invest in breastfeeding. Breast milk really is liquid gold, but the actual act of breastfeeding a baby- that’s where I get excited as an airway-focused dentist. The palate is flattened and broadened while the baby nurses, forming the foundation of wide jaws and a healthy, open airway.
- Ditch the sippy cups. Spouted sippy cups can change the shape of your child’s mouth and airway, narrowing the jaws and causing crowding of teeth. While they may be convenient in the short term, they create severe problems in the long run. Opt for an open cup like the one in my market from ezpz.
- Choose tough foods. Our ancestors had fewer oral health problems and straighter teeth because they had to tear their food with their teeth (no knives or forks were handy!). Baby-led weaning is a great method for skipping the must and encouraging jaw growth through challenging your baby to chew.
- Practice nasal hygiene. Babies who begin to mouth breathe early in life due to nasal congestion are more likely to have underdeveloped facial structures, causing teeth to erupt crowded and misaligned. Use a nasal aspirator or “snot sucker” regularly for babies, and a sinus rinse for older kids.
- Act early. The earlier we can catch signs of an underdeveloped jaw, the easier it will be to correct. Bring your baby to an airway-focused dentist on or before their first birthday if possible. And for the older kids, don’t wait until they’ve lost their baby teeth to evaluate for orthodontics or orthotropic treatment- act now!
Braces are not a right of passage. Oral disease due to narrowed jaws is also not normal. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors had room to house all 32 adult teeth comfortably, and call me naive, but I think we can get back to where we came from, and I’m more than ready to be your partner on this journey.