What is facial growth & development?

Many significant growth and developmental milestones occur during our first 18 months of life. In fact, 60% of a child’s facial development is completed by age 6, and 90% by age 12.
Several aspects contribute to facial growth and development, ranging from genetics and muscle function to breathing, sleep and nutrition. Some of the most common facial development abnormalities seen in children are caused by a compromised airway or the inability to breathe properly through the nose.
Play Video

The connection between growth, development & the airway

Simply put, if a child’s skeletal (jaw) or muscular (tongue) structure is not developing or functioning properly, it can negatively affect their ability to breathe, sleep, breastfeed and even eat certain foods. Over time, these developmental indicators can cause serious health conditions or compensations that have to be addressed later in life.
Fortunately, as medical screening technologies have evolved over the years, so has our ability to understand the connection between breathing, sleep and the oral cavity. There are also very clear structural, functional and behavioral indicators that a child is suffering from an airway disorder — some of which can be identified as early as childbirth.
As functional pediatric dentists, we are fortunate to see little ones as early as a few days after birth, and then routinely each year to monitor how their growth and development is progressing. With each visit, we are not only able to measure key development milestones, we also screen for functional and behavioral indicators.

Pediatric Airway Disorders — Most Common Signs:


  • Ear Infections
  • Running or stuffy nose
  • Sinusitis
  • “Crooked” teeth and/or malocclusion


  • Snoring, heavy, or noisy breathing while sleeping
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Restless sleep, waking up in a different position on the bed, or “bed clothes” are a mess
  • Dark circles under eyes or “allergic shiners”
  • Hard to wake up or tired in the morning
  • Falling asleep at school or when riding in the car
  • Night terrors


  • ADD/ADHD-like symptoms
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Bedwetting past an appropriate age

The importance of early intervention

Play Video
Pre-orthondontic early intervention at the Center for Airway & Facial Development refers to children between the ages of one and a half to three years old. These kids may have already been to the practice for their year one checkup, or perhaps they’ve received a tongue tie release during infancy, but during this stage of their development they present signs that suggest they need assistance with structural and/or functional improvements.
Very simple logic governs early intervention philosophy: the earlier we identify and treat a problem, the better chance we have to a) solve the problem and b) avoid any consequences of not treating as the child grows and develops.

Additionally, early intervention treatment methods are inherently less invasive. The reason the treatment methods are less invasive is because the body is much more responsive to the treatment as the jaws and oral cavity are still forming. This allows us to use functional trainers like Myobrace and Chewy Tubes to promote proper jaw development.

Early intervention orthodontics
for kids over three

Traditionally, orthodontics have been focused on treating patients after their permanent teeth have started to come in — typically between the ages of 9-14. That’s because traditionally, orthodontics have focused on just that — the teeth!
Airway-focused orthodontics views straight teeth as the final piece of a much more health-centric treatment plan. The goal is to grow the jaws and face up and out, creating balanced facial profiles, beautiful smiles and big, healthy airways.
We achieve our goal by using palatal expanders paired with myofunctional therapy exercises to support growth, development and function simultaneously. By building the proper structural foundation at an early age, we are often able to create the necessary space needed for the teeth to develop, while also maximizing the airway.
Play Video

Now that you’ve learned the WHAT and the WHY behind Early
Intervention, click here to learn more about HOW we treat.