Narrow Jaws and large overbites in children: Improved breathing and a good night’s sleep. What is the link?

June 14th, 2020 Andrew Chang
  • Narrow jaws and large overbites in children are often associated with obstructive sleep apnoea. Studies in medical journals have shown that widening of narrow jaws with an expander helps improve nose breathing. This leads to improved oxygen levels in the blood circulation, reducing symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea. These includes daytime sleepiness and difficulty concentrating in the day.
  • We have included some additional FAQs and resources below which parents of growing children can find helpful on this.

Is there a link between narrow jaws, mouthbreathing and face growth?

In growing children , narrow jaws are often associated with some form of nose or upper airway obstruction. This can also affect how their jaws grow. This is also a finding that a well regarded prominent pediatric ENT Surgeon A/Prof McIntosh, based in Queensland, Australia shares with Dr Chang. In this podcast , he discusses the effects of blockages of upper airways in growing children.

How does an expander teeth work?

Widening of a narrow upper jaw is done with an upper orthodontic expander, which provides more space to manage the upper front teeth crowding. Expander teeth generally work best by widening the upper jaw before all the adult teeth have erupted. They can also help to manage any tongue habits early before they make any teeth positions worsen. Braces move teeth, but do not correct the jaw sizes. View our past blog post on “How does an Expander teeth work?” for more information on how does an expander teeth work.

Is there an age limit that a typical expander can still work well?

Generally speaking, the age of 11-12 years in females and slightly older in males is regarded as the age limits where the effectiveness of an expander decreases. Read more about this at our blog post: “Expander teeth for narrow jaws: Can it be too late to fix?

Beyond this age, an expander can still work, though the risks of side effects increases ie: limited movements and/or receding gums. As an adult, widening of a narrow jaw is not possible unless through jaw widening surgery.