Despite the fact that good oral health is essential for the overall health of both mother and child, only 22 to 34 percent of women in the United States visit a dentist during pregnancy.
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Continuing research shows that health issues as varied as headaches and breathing problems may be related to abnormal alignments of the bones of the face and jaw. The good news is, more general dentists are learning how to detect and address these problems through orthodontics, according to an article in the June 2001 issue of AGD Impact, the news magazine of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).
"Dentistry has moved beyond just treating the teeth and oral cavity. We are now able to give patients beautiful faces and alleviate a multitude of medical problems," says AGD spokesperson Yosh Jefferson, DMD, FAGD. According to Dr. Jefferson, dentists properly trained in orthodontic and temporomandibular disorder therapy can often alleviate facial disharmony without surgery through the use of orthodontic appliances.
These changes can affect health as well as looks, says Dr. Jefferson. For example, a person with a long, narrow face is more likely to have problems breathing through his or her nose. "We can make substantial skeletal changes that can correct the architectural framework of the face to its physiologically correct position," says Dr. Jefferson.
The key to successful diagnosis and treatment is early intervention, says Dr. Jefferson. Orthodontic care, preferably presented as a team approach between a general dentist and orthodontist, should begin as early as possible, says Dr. Jefferson.
Many parents wait until children are in their teens before considering orthodontic treatment. But once a child reaches the age of 13, jaw development slows and there is limited room for growth.
When a child is treated between the ages of 5 and 11, general dentists and orthodontists can redirect the child's facial growth and reduce the length of time that a child wears braces. Often times, an extremely short, long or narrow face, a small weak chin or jutting lower jaw can be corrected with orthodontic appliances.
The result; a beautiful profile, straight teeth, broad smile and the potential to alleviate problems such as headaches, jaw pain, earaches, mouth breathing and sleep apnea, says Dr. Jefferson.
Reviewed: January 2012
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