Jaw Development

interceptive     |    teenagers     |    adults

Healthy people look beautiful and beautiful people look healthy

Let me explain…

There are certain physiologic principles which are sacrosanct and one of those is that form follows function. We have all seen super fit athletes who looked awesome while they were in active competition but who upon retirement do not look quite so well-honed. Well, this is so with all of us. Whatever the body is doing, the development follows that function. The most important requirement of the  human body is not for food or water but for air. We can survive days without food or water but only minutes without air. The body will do whatever it needs to do to breathe. For that reason, we have two airways – through the nose and through the mouth. The nose is the physiologic airway and the mouth is the emergency airway. If you get a cold, you will automatically breathe through your mouth – your emergency airway. But what if you can’t or don’t breathe through your nose? You will take up breathing through your emergency airway – your mouth, full-time. If and when that happens, everything changes. Epigenetics steps in. The signalling to the genes for jaw development change.

Proper signaling for jaw development occurs in the nose. Sensors in the nose ‘pick up’ the vacuum pressure of the air passing through the nose. There are other areas of the face and mouth that need the right input to tell the body to grow in the right direction.  Our tongue should be lightly suctioned up in the palate stimulating the nasopalatine nerve (front of your palate) when at rest and when chewing, we need to stimulate proprioceptors located in our chewing muscles and surround each individual tooth.  We need to be chewing a semi-hard diet. When orofacial functions are in place, the upper jaw, the maxilla develops in a forward direction and creates a broad shape. This creates a wide shallow palate, great cheekbones, a beautiful smile and a balanced head posture with good neck alignment. In short, normal optimal development.

Unfortunately when mouth breathing becomes the norm, the upper jaw remains narrow and grows vertically and downward. Often people will look like they have a gummy smile and have a narrow arch. Often the teeth will be crowded or lean in and it looks like the jaw is too small for the teeth.

Just as the development of the upper jaw gets its signalling from nasal breathing, the development of the lower jaw gets its signalling from the size, shape and alignment of the upper jaw. With a constricted upper arch, the lower jaw also becomes constricted and only develops to fit inside the smaller upper jaw. This can result in a whole host of problems beyond crowded teeth. The lower jaw becomes trapped in a posterior position, compressing the TMJ and compromising the airway in the throat. Many people, over time, will develop headaches, neck pain and TMJ problems and even more seriously obstructive sleep apnoea. A narrow airway is much more prone to collapse during sleep. If you develop severe sleep apnoea, you are 4x more likely to die of any cause than someone your own age without sleep apnoea and 5.2x more likely to die of a heart or stroke. It can rob you of decades of your life. This is serious stuff.

The good news is that there are techniques available today which can correct the foundation, even in adulthood. The genes to develop a normal size and shaped jaw are still present, they just need the proper stimulation to start the remodelling process. These tools include:

  • Anterior Remodelling Appliance
  • Controlled Arch Braces
  • Myofunctional Therapy
  • Neuromuscular Dentistry 


But why wait until adulthood to correct the problem, let’s prevent it in the first place…

Good facial and jaw growth starts at birth, but more recent thinking suggests that it may start prior to conception.  Breastfeeding is not only optimally nutritious, but it’s also a work out for the baby’s orofacial muscles.  It encourages nasal breathing, good tongue function, jaw movement and works with the infant’s physiology and neurology.  A well breastfed, nasal breathing baby that starts a semi-hard diet from around 6mths of age already has a head start in life. 

If we start to deviate from our pre-programmed jaw growth trajectory, and the longer we ignore this, the further away we are from being our best self.  The sooner we intercept, the easier the problem is to correct and the healthier we become.

Our Interceptive Jaw Development philosophy is to work WITH nature, with neurology and physiology.  Working with FUNCTION and STRUCTURE conjointly and utilising the bodies’ natural growth phases gives children the best chance of minimising the complexity of any future orthodontic treatment.  Some children who have received our Interceptive Care, haven’t had the need for braces at all.

Structure and function cannot be separated and both need to be addressed. We can make structural changes to our jaws, using appliances for example, but if we do not address the function also, we are only fixing half of the problem.  Our muscles in our jaws, tongue, lips and cheeks should be considered the support network for the facial bones, jaws and teeth.  When the right muscles are used for the right job we have harmony and balance.  We strongly believe in addressing the underlying functional reasons for underdeveloped jaws.  Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy is like physiotherapy but for the mouth, throat and jaw area and.  Robbern White, Cheree Wheaton and Debbie Holliday have received further qualifications in this field.

Our jaw development ethos is to work with our bodies, not against it. Identify the root of the problem.  Look beyond the teeth, treat the person. Nature intended for us to have all of our teeth and we believe that the removal of adult teeth for orthodontic reasons is unnecessary, when we now have techniques to guide jaw development to fit the teeth. 

As part of our integrative and whole-body approach to care, we work closely with other health professionals and we achieve the best outcomes this way. It certainly takes a village.

If you would like your child to have an early interceptive jaw development assessment, then please call 3357 1577 to arrange a time. 

Be confident in yourself, smile without worry.

If you are interested in orthodontics to straighten your teeth or broaden your jaw and improve your profile, please call us to arrange a consultation so we can discuss your options.