Have you had braces as a child, and then watched your teeth begin to shift back to their original position over time?
By Sara Fleischer, MA, CCC-SLP,
Has your teen completed his or her years of braces only to have some of the same issues reoccur?
If you’ve ever experienced any of these scenarios, chances are you’re upset, frustrated, and definitely not ready to spend all that money again.
Why does this happen?
Often times, a child will go to the orthodontist with “pre-existing conditions.” Some examples might be: tongue thrusting, tongue tie, open mouth breathing, and/or sucking habits to name a few.
Many orthodontist treat the structure, meaning, they see crooked teeth, misaligned jaw, or narrow palate and repair just that with the proper orthodontic appliances. They fix exactly the concern that was presented to them. However, they haven’t taken into account the bigger picture.
Take, for instance, the thumb sucker. Chances are she only needed the ortho in the first place due to the sucking habit. Braces go on, job complete, off they go. In a matter of a couple of weeks, the pressure of the sucking will reverse the corrected structures (teeth, bite, jaw…), sending her right back to square one.
In another example is the open-mouth breathing kid. This child has his jaw hanging open and tongue lying low in his mouth. After months of braces and ortho visits (not to mention the prohibitive costs), his underjet, overbite, or other issue will most likely re-occur within as little as a few weeks.
Many competent orthodontists will recommend clients have tongue thrust or other negative oral habits corrected prior to applying braces. However, more often than not, children are getting the usual orthodontic procedures done without this–leading to unfortunate setbacks and the need to repeat the orthodontics.
Here’s a little secret: Our lips and tongue function as natural “orthodontics.” The tongue acts as a palate expander, and lips act as braces when in they are both in the correct resting posture. They will act in synchrony to keep the teeth aligned and in correct positioning. Ever notice how some people who have nice facial profiles and lip closure, smile and reveal beautiful aligned teeth? It’s possible that they even had braces, but they maintained that beautiful smile in some part by keeping their lips closed habitually.
There is much to be said about the benefits of lip closure, nasal breathing, and oral rest posture, and how they all affect our health, dentition, and even facial features, (maybe that’s a topic for another time). The point of this post, though, is just to bring awareness to so many frustrated parents, and to avoid a lot of heartache for those who are just getting into the whole orthodontics world.
If there’s an underlying issue, orthodontics will very possibly be needed, but correct the root of the issue. Don’t just slap those braces on, only to have it undone soon after completion. And for those of you ortho “grads,” even you mom, who watched your teeth reverse back to their not so pretty places, it’s never too late to correct your habits either.
Sara Fleischer, MA, CCC-SLP, is a speech therapist in private practice in Lakewood, NJ, specializing in Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders. She is passionate about her area of specialty in remediating swallows, smiles and speech. When she’s not evaluating and treating clients, she is fulfilling her prized role as wife and mom of her family. She can be contacted at [email protected]