Learning with laughter

What Birth Can Do To Your Jaw

September 05th, 2010

I ask numerous questions about birth to the present day, and I hear similar stories which are consistently linked to specific head shapes, anatomy and life events.

More health professionals learning in school about Viola Frymann’s research (Viola M. Frymann, D.O., F.A.A.O., F.C.A. President of the Board and O.C.C. Medical Director) would give a better understanding of many health issues they see clinically.

Viola Frymann said “Musculoskeletal strains on the newborn during delivery can cause problems throughout life. Recognizing and treating these dysfunctions in the immediate postpartum period is one of the most important phases of preventive medicine.”

Real story – This is one of the most severe examples I have encountered of how craniofacial anatomy can affect someone’s life dramatically. A young lady, age 27 walked into my office last year, having already been through open heart surgery for heart and breathing issues! I was the first person who looked inside her mouth and at her bite as part of a general history taking, and made a possible connection between her narrow palate, and her ongoing and unresolved heart problems. A “light bulb went on her head” when she suddenly understood how her symptoms might be related to this area. Her husband worked with Down’s children who among other anatomical dysfunctions have an extremely narrow palate, heart and breathing issues! She had seen over 23 specialists, and been treated by many health care professionals with a variety of approaches including surgery to solve her issues with no change in symptoms. As a result had become unable to exercise and it was a struggle to enjoy life. Prognosis given by the heart specialist was poor.

CR CraniumBirth history- Anatomy of the cranium – The relationship between the sphenoid, occiput and temporal bones appear consistently to be most significant in my opinion. Clinically, a patient with a narrow head, asymmetrical face/nasal area, a narrow palate and tongue dysfunction will often have chosen similar lifestyle.

Due to the narrow sinus/facial area, the airway and breathing through both nostrils equally, is compromised (unknown to the caregivers and patients often into adulthood). This can result in following history:

1. Feeding issues or colic because the stuffy nose makes nursing difficult and the mum, feeling inadequate gives up breastfeeding because the baby gets too exhausted and cranky. If the baby does persevere and nurses, they can only manage to latch on for short intervals. This can result in a very hungry, angry baby gulping down milk and air resulting in gastric issues or projectile vomit! (Current thinking is that for good jaw development and airway the baby needs to breast feed for 6 months)

2. Facial distortion at birth, colicky baby, feeding and speech problems. The worst symptoms seem to arise when the baby is subjected to a long hard labour, forceps, being a twin in the early years, OR/and a body trauma particularly, if it involves the pelvis and/or head.

3. Childhood/teenager postures- forward head posture/ head tilt & short leg. Personally, I was always told to stop “slouching” at boarding school and was made to walk around with a book on my head for half and hour as punishment! This was very difficult for me to do with my asymmetrical head shape. The teachers assumed I was being defiant when I couldn’t do it! In those days, the punishment for defiance was the ‘strap’ and I felt mystified and helpless!

4. Childhood behaviours: ADD, snoring, tongue posturing, poor sleep patterns, often labelled a “clumsy” child. Thumb and finger sucking.

5. Sports injuries to head, neck & body can contributing factor

6. Childhood issues: one sided vision problems, asymmetrical spinal curves, blocked Eustachian tube, asymmetrical wax build up, earaches which then have tubes surgically implanted.

7. Tonsil/adenoids removal, often happens

8. Sensitivities / allergies often present

9. Airway difficulties: As a child/ young adult they will intuitively pick an anaerobic sport like hockey, basket ball, volleyball, anything where the body does not have to move fast and breathe deeply for too long… “They often have exercise induced asthma.” Being unable to breathe equally through both nostrils due to narrow craniofacial features, (this can be seen on Xray and area is often operated on). Muscle overuse in the Masseter and Pterygoid muscles in my experience are more susceptible to sinusitis and adaptive posture. Body’s natural coping habits: Thumb & finger sucking, (perhaps to fix a narrow or asymmetrical palate). My oldest patient age 18 was still ‘thumb sucking’.

10. Orthodontic work to straighten or correct malocclusion

11. Stressful conditions at home and school.

Summary: The more combinations of these a child has, there is a potential to have the worst TMD issues as an adult because the body develops layers of adaptive strategies and symptoms. Birth trauma and long labours, been in a car accident, Orthodontic work to straighten or align teeth, narrow palate, dysfunctional tongue and speech issues, allergies, asymmetries in head at birth (mild and severe), body and face, snoring, eye, ear & breathing problems, early childhood & prolonged adult stress.

Here are my thoughts on how to fix the problem:  A comprehensive osteopathic approach with precise, gentle, restorative manipulative therapy can help these children immeasurably. The general level of well-being, as well as neurological function, will significantly improve. Adjunct therapies, such as visual and auditory perceptual training, tutoring and a well-balanced diet of whole, natural foods, perhaps with carefully selected supplements, will then be far more effective.

Structural dysfunction resulting from birth trauma can be corrected early so that neurological development progresses satisfactorily. Then academic, behavioural and developmental problems can be averted by establishing or restoring optimal anatomic-physiologic integrity. Therapeutic measures can teach a child how to use the body efficiently. When you have your next baby, have an osteopathic physician evaluate and treat you, the mother, during pregnancy in order to reduce any possible complications during labour and then provide a though evaluation of your baby during the newborn period. This is the essence of prevention.


1. North Shore massage therapist:  Brenda Pulvermacher 604 986 9355 at www.OceanWellness.ca

2. Vancouver Physiotherapist: Fred Samorodin www.integratedphysio.com Tel: 604-732-6323

3. Kamloops BC Claudia Scrivener, MSPT, Registered Physiotherapist; 250-377-7675;
V2C 5R9
Email: handsonhealth.brian@telus.net

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