Thanks to our faces we can breathe, eat, drink and communicate with each other. Automatically. We don’t even have to think about it. But, these functions of our faces have another role – they drive the growth and development of our heads and faces, otherwise known as craniofacial growth and development.
And even though we don’t think about how we breathe, drink, chew, swallow and talk, there are right and wrong ways to do them. If done correctly, our face grows optimally. If done incorrectly, the face grows poorly, leading to many common medical problems.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
Healthy Faces, Healthy Bodies, Healthy People
Our facial functions are established in the first two years of life.
BIRTH – 2 YEARS
The baby is born with the palate (roof of the mouth) wide enough for the tongue to rest there. Lips are closed and breathing is through the nose.
The baby’s tongue pushes up into the palate while nursing. This pressure encourages the bones of the mouth to grow forward and outward at the premaxillary and intermaxillary structures. The work of the facial muscles sucking draws milk from the breast. The tug of the muscles on the bones encourages them to grow.
Just like we exercise our arms and legs, we also need to exercise our faces. Nursing is baby’s facial exercise.
The tongue continues to work the same way when the baby learns how to drink from a cup and eat solid food. It pushes up against the roof of the mouth to balance the forces of the chewing muscles pushing in.
Breathing – along with chewing and swallowing (while eating and drinking) – is facial exercise for children and adults.
Between one and two years of age, the one and two year molars come in. When this happens, the child bites down so the molars come together triggering the transition of the swallow from an infantile (tongue thrust) swallow where the tongue moves forward in addition to up into the palate to a functional swallow (also known as a mature swallow) where the tongue moves solely up into the roof of the mouth. The happens by the age of 2 years, and the functions of the face are now fully developed.
Now that the functions of the face are fully developed, the face is ready to grow! The face grows forward resulting in growth of the airway to meet the need for air in the growing individual.