Dr. Kathryn Clark is an orthodontist at Byrdsmiles Orthodontics and is offering her knowledge with Beltway Bambinos as it relates to orthodontics for children and adolescents. Dr. Talley, another orthodontist at Byrdsmiles Orthodontics shared a post in December about orthodontic care for patients and how the field has progressed and improved thanks to advances in research and technology.
Just as the Colorado River shaped the Grand Canyon, the muscles of your lips, cheeks and tongue work to shape your mouth and the way your teeth fit together.
With normal growth and development, your tongue rests on the roof of your mouth to keep the upper arch broader than the lower arch. Your upper and lower jaws both grow downward and forward as your face matures.
If you suck your thumb or a pacifier, it can reshape your mouth. Depending on the severity and duration of force, it can narrow your upper arch which can lead to a cross bite, where the upper teeth fit inside the lower teeth. This can cause facial asymmetry as you shift your jaw to one side to find a more comfortable place to bite down. The incidence of cross bite increases if a thumb habit persists beyond age 2. Prolonged thumb sucking can also procline your upper front teeth, or tilt them forward. Having your thumb between your teeth consistently can prevent full eruption of your upper front teeth and allow excess eruption of the posterior teeth leading to an anterior open bite, where your top teeth don’t overlap your bottom teeth at all. This can make it hard to bite into food and get the inside part of a sandwich! In the long term an anterior open bite can also increase the stress to the posterior teeth and make them more susceptible to fracture and periodontal issues. Stopping a thumb habit before the eruption of the permanent teeth reduces the chances of a bite problem developing.
There are many ways to help stop a thumb habit. Frequently we’ll show a video of how your teeth can be moved with a prolonged thumb habit and the negative effects associated with it. Understanding why we want the habit to stop is an important part. Next we review options that can serve as reminders to help you stop sucking your thumb. This can include wearing a band aid on your thumb, wearing socks or mittens on your hand, putting an ace bandage on your elbow, or using Mavala Stop nail polish. The workbook What To Do When Bad Habits Take Hold can walk you through the self soothing effects of sucking your thumb and alternative ways to achieve those feelings. We can place an orthodontic appliance called a spinnerball appliance to help. This acts as a reminder whenever your thumb touches it and also provides an alternative of spinning the spinnerball with your tongue. The spinnerball is positioned to act as a target for the ideal position of your tongue at rest and during swallow. If needed, the spinnerball can be placed once the permanent first molars have erupted around age 6-7.
If your thumb is frequently present between your teeth, your tongue positions itself low on the floor of your mouth. Some people will thrust their tongue forward between their teeth when swallowing, called a tongue thrust swallow. These can contribute to an anterior open bite. To help combat these things, we frequently work with a myofunctional therapist, a speech therapist who specializes in proper position and function of the muscles of your mouth. The myofunctional therapist will give you exercises to help retrain your muscles to function properly.
At Byrdsmiles, we have been excited about the results we have been able to achieve using Invisalign and myofunctional therapy to help close anterior open bites. In the past, orthognathic surgery was often considered to close anterior open bites. Now often times we can get the anterior teeth to overlap by intruding the posterior teeth with Invisalign and reguiding the tongue to prevent reopening of the bite.
By looking at the causative factors in a developing occlusion, we are best able to guide the teeth into their most functional and esthetic position. If you want to find out more about how your oral health can be improved with orthodontic treatment, please visit our office!
At Byrdsmiles Orthodontics we would love the opportunity to get to know you and answer your questions. Please call us to schedule a complimentary new patient exam. You can also find us on Google, Facebook, and Rate a biz.
Location: 4110 River Rd. NW Washington, DC 20016
Phone: (202) 686-2108