Dentofacial Development

The overall health and wellness of a growing child is every parent’s concern. The growth and development of your child’s face and mouth is directly linked to his or her systemic health and wellness during formative years and adulthood. As such, the skeletal and muscular structures that support the mouth and the airway should be evaluated from an early age on a regular basis.

How does Dr. Woodlief help children to achieve proper facial development?

Dr. Woodlief works with pediatricians and otolaryngologists (ENTs) to correct and ensure proper craniofacial development, and he has extensive training in the growing field of dentofacial orthopedics. This involves remodeling facial bones to maximize airway space and skeletal development. The nature of dentofacial orthopedics is minimally invasive and highly preventative. Our ultimate goal is normal development of the airway and the temporomandibular jaw joints. Orthopedic correction of both the upper and lower jaws is viewed as a medical model, covered by most medical insurance. Please call our office for a free consultation.

How does Dr. Woodlief evaluate children’s dentofacial development?

Dr. Woodlief evaluates children according to the following criteria:

Airway Issues

Does your child…

  • Sleep in an abnormal position with her head off the bed or propped up with pillows?
  • Snore loudly and often?
  • Stop breathing during the night for 10-20 seconds at a time, followed by choking, gasping, and awakening?
  • Sweat heavily during sleep?
  • Sleep restlessly?
  • Wet the bed?
  • Have difficulty awakening even though she has slept long enough?
  • Have headaches during the day, particularly in the morning?
  • Become irritable, aggressive, or cranky?
  • Fall asleep or daydream at school or home?
  • Have school-related or other behavioral problems?
  • Have an Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADHD)?
  • Daytime Sleepiness/Irritability

Daytime fatigue and irritability may be caused by poor sleep quality resulting from compromised breathing. If the underlying issues are not corrected, learning difficulties, hyperactivity, inhibited growth, and even ADHD could result.

Dental Arches

Are the arches taking on the prescribed wide “horseshoe” shape or the compromised narrow ‘V’ shape? Is there sufficient space for the tongue?

Dental Crowding

If the palate is too narrow, permanent teeth are mechanically blocked out due to insufficient space. This results in an overcrowding condition that may affect appearance, chewing, and speech clarity.


An underdeveloped upper arch may trap the developing lower arch, causing it to impinge on the ear canals and create earaches.

Facial Profile

A recessed lower jaw may be an indicator of improper orthopedic development.


Compromised facial bone development may cause a strain on facial muscles, resulting in headaches, neck aches, etc.

Oral Habits

Thumb or finger-sucking habits, or long-term pacifier and baby bottle use may affect the shape of your child’s jaw bones and the position of the teeth.


Snoring may be a sign of reduced oxygen intake during sleep. Sometimes it is associated with sleep apnea, during which the child stops breathing momentarily. Snoring is generally associated with mouth breathing and may result in increased blood pressure.


A malocclusion (bad bite) and its resulting muscle strain may eventually lead to a musculoskeletal dysfunction of the head and neck. This cluster of symptoms is commonly known as TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder). The temporomandibular joints are the two joints just in front of the ears, connecting the jaw bone to the skull. TMD can affect the entire muscular and skeletal system. It may be characterized by a variety of symptoms such as headaches, aching neck, ringing in the ears, and sinus problems.

What can specialized treatment do for my child?

Following a comprehensive evaluation, Dr. Woodlief will recommend an individualized course of action. This may include fitting your child with a customized functional appliance to generally widen the upper dental arches and control musculature while correctly positioning the lower arch. This helps create ample tongue space, which permits proper tongue positioning. It widens the nasal turbinates to improve nasal breathing and corrects any vertical overclosure or narrow facial development. If so required, Dr. Woodlief will also reposition the teeth to maintain these orthopedic corrections, which leads to optimized airway and facial development.

What are the benefits of early dentofacial evaluation and treatment?

  • Improved airway for life
  • Restful, restorative sleep/daytime attentiveness
  • Reduced speech impediments
  • Effective chewing
  • Jaw joint health and comfort
  • Reduced incidence of earaches and headaches
  • Elimination of snoring
  • Improved facial profile
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Improved confidence and self-esteem