Summary of an article by Dr. Prue King
Facial beauty is the result of symmetry and balance. Our eyes will detect and visualize changes in form even before we consciously think about it. Some childhood habits can result in distortion of the dental arches and facial asymmetry.
Habits that affect facial beauty
Thumb-sucking is an extremely common habit; about 80 percent of babies and children suck their thumbs at some point. This will change the swallowing pattern and tongue position, putting pressure on some teeth and almost invariably creating a malocclusion. Breast-feeding until the child is old enough to drink straight from a cup (6 – 8 months old) encourages a more relaxed lip position and swallow in the infant. The tongue sits properly in the oral cavity and will set the child up for a beautiful smile.
There are also thumb guards and oral appliances for thumb sucking correction. The sooner these habits are stopped, the less likely they are to lead to permanent distortion of the face, teeth and jaws.
Sleeping incorrectly: Sleeping positions can also affect facial growth. If a child falls asleep each night on her stomach with her head to the side, perhaps a hand tucked in under her cheek, that side of her face will be flatter than the other and the canine tooth will most probably be impacted. Babies should be put to sleep on alternate sides and on their backs to encourage symmetrical development of the facial bones.
Allergies and nasal obstruction should be treated early so that nasal breathing is established for good health and facial development. Once children are older, interventions for mouth-breathers include learning corrective breathing techniques, taping the mouth closed, and the use of pre-orthodontic trainers for lip support and swallowing correction.
Early problems: Most children had the same type of problems in their baby teeth as they have in their permanent teeth. The baby teeth are much smaller so crowding will be less evident and may go unnoticed. Parents should watch for problems such as mouth breathing, snoring, lip biting, thumb or finger sucking, headaches and allergy problems.
Orthodontic correction: If all this fails to prevent a malocclusion and the poor child has inherited mum’s small jaw and dad’s huge teeth, then early intervention with functional orthodontic appliances expanding the dental arches and repositioning the jaw will create a pleasing smile and face without needing to extract teeth and decrease the time spent straightening the teeth with braces.
Read the full article by Dr. Prue King: The effect of diet on facial and dental development