While multiple factors can influence and affect the way a child’s face and skull develops, such as genetics, nutrition, tongue position and breathing, chewing is an incredibly critical one. The amount of time spent chewing (and what we are chewing), significantly impacts the growth, shape, and position of the jaws. In my work, I’ve learned that people who tend to eat more processed and refined foods have smaller and often underdeveloped jaws than those who eat traditional diets with foods that require more chewing.
As a pediatric dentist, I know if we catch these issues soon in infancy and early childhood, we have a better chance of getting children back on track with proper facial growth, dental development, and breathing. And one strategy to use when trying to course-correct issues is encouraging families to engage their children in chewing more.
Babies and their growing jaws need stimulus at early ages, as their skeletal systems are very malleable and reactive. Chewing helps to strengthen the jaw muscles and initiate ideal bone development by assisting in laying down the bone matrix, thus allowing the jaw to develop to its fullest potential.
Other factors need to be considered, too, such as mouth breathing and improper tongue position, but working with an airway-focused or functional dentist from early on in your child’s life can help you get to the root causes of issues and will offer guidance to get them back on track