What you need to know about childhood atypical swallowing
Many people find it so cute when a baby uses a pacifier, sleeps with a bottle or sucks his thumb, just as he did in his mother’s womb. Yes, that’s right, they look very cute and sweet. However, prolonging these practices for a long time can cause some oral problems in the child and even affect natural functions, one of the most common is atypical child swallowing.
What does it consist of?
Atypical swallowing is a very common disorder in children that occurs when an incorrect tongue position occurs when swallowing and that can trigger inefficient swallowing, affect the development of teeth, speech and even the appearance of the child.
When complementary feeding is started and the first solids are incorporated into the baby’s diet, swallowing may be impaired. Some specialists believe that the main factors of this condition are the use of the pacifier, the sucking of the finger and the bottle, as well as the practice of biting the nails or the excess of a soft diet.
During atypical swallowing, the tongue is positioned behind the front teeth, producing pressure when swallowing food, when it is normal for the tongue to be placed on the palate during swallowing.
This disorder produces the following signs in the child:
- Symmetric anterior open bite.
- A “buck tooth” trait in which the upper teeth protrude excessively.
- Upper lip without force, and excess of it in the lower one.
- Noises when swallowing.
- phonetic problems.
- Food spillage after swallowing.
Other risk factors
Facial malformations, hereditary factors and chronic pathologies such as tonsillitis are other causes that have been identified in cases of atypical infant swallowing. The aforementioned oral habits have also been determined as the main reason why babies present this problem, which may seem normal to many parents, but in the long term it will generate problems in the normal development of the child, mainly affecting their self-esteem.
For this reason, it is important that detection be done from an early age, so it is advisable to maintain regular visits to the pediatrician who is the specialist with the preparation to recognize these conditions. Similarly, after the appearance of the baby’s first teeth, dental check-ups should be started to verify that the entire teething process is proceeding normally.
How to avoid atypical swallowing
Pediatricians and specialists assure that the best way to avoid any oral disorder in children is to stimulate prolonged breastfeeding, since the use of bottles and pacifiers in excess affect the development of the baby’s jaw, while breastfeeding favors it.
In the case of applying mixed breastfeeding and using the bottle, you must make sure to acquire suitable teats for your baby’s age, which have an ergonomic design and withdraw their use before two years of age, the same is advised on the best pacifiers, since they are recognizes that these instruments are very useful as pacifiers in babies with high demand.
On the other hand, properly incorporating solids into the child’s diet is a natural way to prevent atypical swallowing, because through the different textures and densities of food, the baby will develop strength in the muscles of the face and in the jaws to make a correct swallow, keeping the tongue in the proper position.
In recent years, a positive relationship has been established between the Baby Led Weaning method to introduce complementary feeding in babies and correct swallowing. This is because this technique, with the masticatory movement that babies learn, favors a balanced shape of the mouth, with adequate development length and width, up to the palate. Similarly, orofacial motor skills are developed, reducing cases of oral breathing, drooling and atypical swallowing.
If your child has any of the symptoms and has been exposed to the risk factors already mentioned, the best thing you can do is consult a specialist. Taking him to the pediatric dentist is the first option, either on his own initiative or on the recommendation of your trusted doctor, he will be the one to make a complete diagnosis of what the child has, start treatment to correct anatomical problems through orthodontics, and at the same time refer you to a speech therapist.
Years of studies on this condition have determined that the joint work of the orthodontist and the speech therapist help correct the anatomy and normalize the oral functions altered by this deformation, such as normal breathing and swallowing.
The treatment applied to atypical swallowing is focused on restoring balance to the face and mouth, correcting swallowing functions and establishing habits for chewing and breathing correctly. It is best to start this treatment after 4 or 5 years.
In many dental clinics, specialists make the diagnosis by identifying the real causes of the condition in the child, and from there develop a strategic treatment together with the speech therapist to provide lasting results.
Through myofunctional therapy, a series of muscle exercises are taught to the child to eliminate atypical swallowing patterns and develop new ones. In this way, correct swallowing is educated and the facial muscles are aligned.
Once this treatment is fully completed, the muscles of the tongue, lips, and cheeks will be rehabilitated, to then begin orthodontic treatment, whose objective is to close the open bite.
To do this, the orthodontist positions a lower lingual arch with a grid so that the child maintains the correct position of the tongue when swallowing. This prevents the tongue from going to the palate.
In a timely manner, the specialists emphasize that all the people close to the child such as parents, relatives and teachers receive guidance to permanently help the child to practice nasal breathing and strengthen the correct swallowing habits, as well as maintain constant positive reinforcement throughout the process. In this way, it is possible to consolidate the advances in treatment and avoid a recurrence of bad habits, which happens very often when the child does not have a close support network.