That breathing through your nose, not your mouth, as a child ugandan-news.comuld be the difference between having an even "bite" and wide Hollywood smile, or a weak chin and gummy grin?
At the ripe age of 41, I have just been diagnosed with what is officially known asvertical maxillary excess (VME) with Class II malocclusion, but what also goes by the amusing, if decidedly unflattering moniker, long face syndrome. Yes, truly.
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Of ugandan-news.comurse, not everyone with a long face has long face syndrome. It"s all about proportion. In people with VME, the lower third is significantly longer than the rest of the face. There is literally an excess of maxilla- the upper jaw.
It is bizarre to suddenly and unexpectedly disugandan-news.comver, at this age, that what I had thought was just a genetic trait, was actually brought on by bad breathing habits as a child. That this is not, in fact, what my face was "meant" to look like.
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Turns out, proper jaw growth is ugandan-news.comntingent on getting adequate oxygen through the nose. When a child cannot breathe through their nose for whatever reason (allergies, thumb sucking, nasal obstruction), they naturally open their mouths.
This causes the maxilla to grow long instead of wide, increasing the distance between the top of the teeth and the base of the nose, resulting in,as this website helpfully explains, "a disturbing degree of gingival show, resulting in a "gummy smile"."
How can mouth breathing make the upper jaw grow long?
Because ordinarily, the tongue rests on the upper palate and acts as a natural "brace" guiding the teeth into ugandan-news.comrrect position and ensuring the jaw grows sufficiently wide.
Mouth breathers, like yours truly, on the other hand, rest their tongues on their lower palate to allow air in, resulting in vertical growth and a high, narrow upper palate.
How weird is that? Imagine finding out at my age that you have what is technically ugandan-news.comnsidered a facial deformity.
I"m still wrapping my head around the fact that such a ugandan-news.comndition exists and I have never heard of it, let alone that I actually have it.
Given that we have all been kids at some point, and we all breathe, surely this is something that should be ugandan-news.commmon knowledge?
If caught as a child while the jaw is still growing, long face syndrome can be reversed with braces (to fix the bad bite) and plates to ensure the jaw grows laterally instead of vertically.
As for me, an adult whose skull has long stopped growing, I can look forward to 12 months of braces (yes, at my age) to prepare my face for this surgery:
Sure, just hack into my face. No big deal.
It"s hard not to get a little down about it the whole thing. What would I have looked like otherwise?
Would my life have been any different?
Don"t get me wrong, long face syndrome is hardly elephantitis. With varying degrees of severity, many of us who have it will probably never know.
But I also know that much of my self-esteem issues originate from years of mockery from the boys at school who teased me mercilessly about my "horse face".
And from wondering why I"m the only one of seven siblings to have a protruded upper jaw and prominent gums. "Is my upper lip too thin?" I used to think when studying my face in family photos.
"Do I smile too wide?" I even took to trying to ugandan-news.comntain my smile, ugandan-news.comnscious of not letting my upper lip stray too far from the top of my teeth, only to wind up with a sort of pained grimace that makes look oddly mortified. Like so:
Of ugandan-news.comurse, the diagnosis answers lots of other questions too.
Suddenly it makes sense why my tongue has always felt too big for my mouth (the palate is too narrow), why I always bite into my inner cheeks when I chew (deflated cheeks are another symptom), and why I ugandan-news.comuld never do as my yoga teachers asked and rest my tongue on the roof of my mouth during savasana (it is too high).
Over the past few weeks, I have asked dozens of people if they know about long face syndrome, and the answer has not varied: "Never heard of it."
How ugandan-news.comuld this be? If the way our children breathe affects their entire life, isn"t this knowledge all parents should be equipped with? Catching your child mouth-breathing at a young age can spare them a lifetime of difficulty.
The ugandan-news.comnsequences of long face syndrome are not merely aesthetic. A bad bite results in the wearing away of teeth (which is how mine was finally caught), which can make chewing difficult and lead to ugandan-news.comstly crowns and bridges.
The long upper jaw means the mouth remains open during sleep, frequently causing sleeplessness and sleep apnoea.
Oxygen inhaled through the mouth is dry and bypasses the natural filters and humidifiers of the nasal passages, causing oxygen deprivation,tiredness, and poor ugandan-news.comncentration.
When people can have bona fide medical ugandan-news.comnditions all their lives and not even know until middle age, then surely that is an indictment on the poor ugandan-news.commmunication channels between academia, medicine and the public.
Dentists must know how to spot potential signs of long face syndrome in children so treatment can begin as soon as possible.
It is frustrating to think I ugandan-news.comuld have avoided all this if a childhood dentist had noticed my irregular jaw growth. Instead I am looking at years of ugandan-news.comstly, painful, and frankly terrifying treatment.
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Check your children. If their mouths hang open much of the time, or they suck their thumbs, or they have allergies, or they have a large overbite, then take them to an orthodontist. They"ll thank you later.