Do Our Genes Alone Determine Our Facial Appearance?

Have you ever wondered how the cherubic, angelic face of a child often changes shape and becomes long, angular and sometimes alike the parents? It is because our facial appearance is not just genetic. It is also shaped by our environment.

The growing facial bones are elastic and are molded and shaped by the way children eat, sleep, breathe and speak. The air we breathe, the tongue, the muscles of chewing and the way we bite are the very forces that determine our facial structure and therefore our appearance. Therefore our chewing habits, the breathing patterns and tongue position affect the way the facial bones are shaped and therefore our facial appearance.

So it is not a surprise that a dentist can easily identify a mouth breather, a thumb sucker or a tongue thruster by just his facial appearance. The mouth breather has a long face. The thumb sucker will have protruding upper teeth. The tongue thruster will have an open bite with space between the front teeth.


Mouth breather






Thumb sucker







Tongue thruster

These environmental factors that adversely affect facial shape are preventable and therefore facial growth is very much controllable and modifiable – if intervened early. Any oral habit that is continued after the age of 4years of age needs intervention. Therefore it is necessary to bring the children above the age of 4 years for a dental check up if you suspect that they may have some oral habits that can affect the children’s facial growth.

Teeth alignment also changes the facial appearance in a major way and these teeth alignment disturbances can also be prevented as and when they develop, during the time the permanent teeth erupt.
The American Association of Orthodontists advises that children must be seen by the orthodontist (braces specialist) at age seven. Apollo white dental recommends that the parents bring their children as soon as the first milk tooth falls. The child’s growth pattern can be assessed by the specialist and permanent growth deformities prevented before the permanent teeth erupt and the growth centers of the jaw stop growing.
A few Preventive Orthodontic Treatments that can be initiated to prevent major growth problems in Children
1. Extremely crowded teeth may require serial extraction of the milk tooth to accommodate space for the permanent teeth
2. Small lower jaw can be stimulated to grow, using removable, easy to wear appliances this growth problem, if not addressed early, cannot be corrected by braces and may need a surgery later.
3. Some children have a narrow upper or a lower jaw these can be widened when the child is in active growing phase using expansion appliances
4. Protruding upper or lower teeth can be due to an excessive growth of the upper or lower jaw – which can be controlled using straps and special appliances
5. Enlarge transverse width of arches to relieve crowding
6. Cross bite correction
7. Deep bite correction
8. Habit breaking appliances can prevent thumb sucking, lip biting, mouth breathing or tongue thrusting before they make significant changes in the facial structure.
These corrections are done early, can minimize the need for fixed braces later. They can also be used as habit breakers. They can permanently alter the facial appearance for the better without surgery.

Advantages of Early Treatment:
• Moves the front teeth inwards so they are not prone to injury.
• Corrects the relationship of upper and lower jaws, for better growth in the future.
• Decreases the stress on joints due to malocclusion
• Improves facial appearance and self-esteem.
• May decrease the need for further treatment when patients are older.

Preventive Dental Check Ups
Regular dental check-ups also ensure the prevention of decay and gum disease which can also alter the jaw growth significantly. Preventive fluoride applications and pit and fissure sealants can avoid painful childhood decay and also preserve the health and growth of the child.