Beyond Behavior Disorders

Kids with jaw disorders often have overt or noticeable issues, including difficulty chewing, chronic mouth breathing or problems talking. But what about problems that aren’t immediately connected to a condition of the jaw? 

We are talking about behavioral disorders.

Many parents are surprised to learn that their child’s behavior disorder could be related to an underlying jaw issue, but in many cases, there is a connection. Studies have suggested a link between certain types of jaw problems and symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression and other behavioral issues.

Interrupted Jaw Growth

Interrupted jaw growth is a condition that occurs when the upper and lower jaw doesn’t grow properly, resulting in an improper bite. Interrupted jaw growth can happen as a result of: 

Genetics: Certain genetic conditions can cause interrupted jaw growth due to the abnormal development of the jaw joints and teeth.

Trauma: Traumatic injuries such as a fractured jaw can also cause interrupted jaw growth.

Infection: Infections in the mouth or facial area, such as abscesses, can lead to interrupted jaw growth.

Environmental factors: Environmental factors such as poor nutrition, smoking or drug use during pregnancy, and ongoing stress/exposure to stressful situations can all contribute to interrupted jaw growth.

Poor oral behaviors: Additionally, certain habits like thumb-sucking, pacifier use and tongue thrusting can cause the jaw to develop improperly and impact jaw development and permanent teeth spacing. 

Certain medical conditions: When the jaw grows abnormally, it can cause a number of issues that may affect behavior. For example, poor bite alignment and altered facial proportions can lead to difficulty speaking, trouble chewing and other oral health problems. This can lead to chronic mouth breathing and fatigue. 

The connection between jaw problems and behavioral disorders is not fully understood. It is believed that the misalignment of the teeth can cause changes in brain function. This can lead to issues with concentration, impulse control, and emotional regulation.

Additionally, when the jaw has issues due to development or growth issues, misalignment, or other issues, it can contribute to other health conditions, such as the sleep breathing disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea. This happens when the jaw is set too far back, causing the tongue to fall back and block the airway or causing the upper airway to be too narrow. 

Children with the sleep disorder OSA also often experience mood disorders and behavioral issues as a result of repeated disturbed sleep.  

Many children with these behaviors are misdiagnosed and often medicated unnecessarily. This can create a vicious cycle of medication and frustration for kids and their families. 

Signs of Jaw Issues 

Some signs of jaw problems that may contribute to behavioral issues in children include:

  • Difficulty chewing and speaking
  • Chronic mouth breathing or snoring
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • Jaw pain or clicking/popping noises when moving the jaw
  • Daytime sleepiness/fatigue
  • Low oral endurance (tiring easily with activities that involve speaking, chewing or other mouth movements)

If you suspect your child may be suffering from a jaw issue that could be contributing to their behavioral issues, consult us for an evaluation. We can determine if the jaw is misaligned and recommend the appropriate treatment to correct the problem.

Treating Jaw Problems to Improve Behavior

The first step in treating jaw-related behavioral issues is to identify the underlying issue. This requires a comprehensive evaluation of the jaw and teeth. We will then be able to recommend treatments such as braces, and appliances that can help correct the problem and improve the child’s overall health and behavior.

When the underlying cause of a child’s behavioral issues is not immediately clear, it is important to investigate further and consider whether there may be an issue with the jaw. If your child is exhibiting signs of ADHD, depression or anxiety, seeking a comprehensive evaluation from a dentist or specialist in pediatric dentistry can help you determine if there are any jaw-related issues that could be causing the issues.

Jaw alignment can also lead to physical symptoms such as headaches and earaches, which can make it harder for a child to concentrate or pay attention in school. Addressing the jaw issue can often help to improve these physical symptoms, which in turn can help to reduce behavioral issues. 

Orthodontics for Jaw Problems

Orthodontic treatment can help to correct jaw misalignments and improve the appearance of the teeth and bite, which ultimately could help to improve behavioral issues. Some orthodontic treatments can also guide jaw development in young children, ensuring jaw growth reaches its fullest potential. 

Does your child need to be examined for possible jaw growth problems? Give us a call today, we want to help your child reach their full potential in every aspect of life.