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Craniofacial Growth and Development

Our faces are critical to our survival

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 and leads 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.

CONNECTING THE DOTS

Healthy Faces, Healthy Bodies, Healthy People

Our facial functions are established in the first two years of life.

BIRTH – 2 YEARS

Sleeping.

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.

Breastfeeding.

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 sutures. 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.

Balance of Forces.

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, chewing, and swallowing is facial exercise for children and adults.

Functional Swallow.

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 to a functional swallow (also known as a mature swallow). In an infantile swallow, the tongue moves forward and up into the palate. In a mature swallow, the tongue moves solely up into the roof of the mouth. This transition from infantile to mature swallow happens by the age of two years and indicates that facial functions are fully developed.

Growing Forward.

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.