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Question & Answer - Oral Sensory-Motor, Myofunctional, Vocal Tract, & Airway Information

Why do so many children have braces, and could this be prevented?

Answer from Dr. Ricardo Santos speech therapist in Portugal

May 2016


Healthy children are usually born with good mouth structure and function. So, why do so many children end up in “braces?” I will tell you how malocclusions (i.e., changes in tooth position or "crooked teeth") occur.

Classically, we try to solve problems when they already exist. And, changes in tooth position usually demand assistance from specialties such as Orthodontics and Functional Jaw Orthopedics to fix these problems. But, could these difficulties be prevented? And, can there be intervention even before these changes manifest? The answer is YES.

In addition to various genetic factors, there are environmental issues that can interfere with the ultimate position of the teeth. The first is related to breastfeeding or rather the lack of it and its replacement by bottle feeding. There are studies demonstrating that unnatural feeding processes influence the position of the teeth and the entire growth of the face, while proper breastfeeding helps to maintain the appropriate shape of the mouth and face.

But, what else causes problems with face and mouth development? Well, the muscles and their development have a direct influence on tooth position. Habits like pacifier use, bottle feeding, changes in breathing patterns (e.g., mouth breathing), predominance of smooth foods in a child’s diet, among other factors can lead to inadequate stimuli of the muscles and poor craniofacial development. In these cases, the role of speech therapy can be crucial. Oral sensory-motor and orofacial myofunctional intervention focuses on regulation and harmonization of orofacial functions such as breathing, chewing, sucking, speech, and swallowing. Changes in these functions can lead to changes in the position of the teeth and ultimately craniofacial development.

Proper feeding and mouth development activities can prevent malocclusion. However, this is a challenge in our modern world of bottle feeding, smooth baby food, and pacifier use!

Here are two articles by Diane Bahr with details on how to avoid these problems from birth:

-What Every Parent Needs to Know about Mouth Development from Birth: What Can Go Wrong and Why

-Newborn and Early Mouth Development


Dr. Ricardo Santos, Speech Therapist

Director of MyoSolutions in Portugal