Avoiding Orthodontic Disasters Part II

Can An Early Type Of Jaw Problem Cause Headaches And Look Wrong?
When a child’s upper jaw is too narrow, frequently the only available place for the lower jaw to bite is over to one side. This discrepancy may not be obvious to the parent as it is not easily picked up by the untrained eye. A chewing disturbance of this nature can put significant stress on jaw muscles and jaw joints. Some children’s temporomandibular joints and muscles may not be able to adapt to the functional shift that accompanies this unilateral posterior crossbite. The most dramatic symptom of this can be frequent or constant headaches of indeterminate origin.
Not so long ago, one of my young staff members in her early twenties decided she would like to have her teeth straightened. Her health history told a traumatic story. She had been having chronic persistent headaches since she was a small child. When she was 10 years old she was admitted to a local general hospital to test for the cause of these headaches. The testing went on for one month with no success. She was then transferred to a children’s hospital. Additional testing taking 3 months eliminated any life threatening or pathological causes, but there was no determination for the actual cause of her headaches.
She had been living with these headaches for over 15 years when I first examined her. My clinical examination showed a unilateral crossbite with a functional shift of her lower jaw to the right side along with poorly aligned teeth. The first step in treatment was orthopedic widening of her upper jaw. Once this was successfully done, her lower jaw no longer shifted to the side and with that change, her headaches remarkably disappeared.

Now this patient can eat her poutine pain free.

All of her years of pain could have been eliminated with early orthodontic detection and correction. This type of unilateral crossbite generally first appears in the child’s baby teeth and is best corrected at that time. The problem itself is a jaw problem not a tooth problem. The narrow upper jaw is much easier to widen in a young child when bones are more malleable. In general, the best and most resilient results are achieved when the problem is treated at a young age (age 3 to 7).


Three Jaw Problems In Children We Should Be Watching For
Unilateral Crossbite
Protruding Lower Jaw
Protruding Front Teeth

As well as causing headaches, unilateral crossbite can be as facially disfiguring as a protruding lower jaw or protruding upper teeth . Our focus must be to make an individual look, function, and feel as normal as possible as early as possible.

Dr. Vic Schacher Certified Specialist in Orthodontics