Russell and Bode Family Dentistry

What is a TOT?

What is a TOT?

Haven’t heard of a TOT in relation to the mouth? What comes to mind when you hear TOT? For me, its Napoleon Dynamite which is perfect because that sweet man loves his tots and he also struggles with tethered oral tissues. Napoleons open mouth and forward head posture is a sign that he may indeed be struggling with a possible tongue tie or buccal cheek tie. So why does this matter and why are my dentists blogging about it?

A TOT is an acronym for Tethered Oral Tissues. Our tongue and lips are secured to our oral mucosa by a band of connective tissue, better known as a frenum. These tissue attachments can cause issues if they are too restrictive or tight. Some researchers estimate the prevalence of a tongue-tie to be between 4-10% of our population. The tongue may seem insignificant at first glance, but this muscle is very underestimated for its substantial role in overall health.

It is likely that you or someone you know is affected by this condition and doesn’t even know it! A tongue tie can be the hidden reason behind nursing difficulties in babies, feeding problems in toddlers, speech issues in children, and even migraine headaches and neck pain in adults. This tight tissue can result in problems with swallowing, clenching and grinding, facial growth and development, proper dental hygiene, and can exacerbate sleep apnea symptoms. So all along you thought the phrase, ‘tongue-tied’ was just an old saying. No it is a physical restriction that can cause health issues that interfere with your long term quality of life!

Breastfeeding and Your Babies Health and Jaw Development

Breastfeeding and Your Babies Health and Jaw Development

As some of you may know, my husband and I are expecting our first child in June! Like many new moms, I am on information overload when it comes to all things baby! I am constantly sorting through information on what I should and should not be doing/eating during pregnancy, how to survive labor, how to keep my child alive after birth, whether or not we should go disposable or cloth diapers, etc., and on top of that, filtering through the thousands of baby products out there! There is one topic that I am sure of and that is breastfeeding. As a dental health professional I have learned so much about breastfeeding and infant jaw development, oral health and overall health for your little one that I want to share!

Side Note: Breastfeeding may not be possible for all women. For many, the decision to breastfeed or formula feed is based on their comfort level, lifestyle, and specific medical situations, and infant formula is a healthy alternative to breastfeeding. Deciding to breastfeed or formula feed is a personal decision and we fully support what you decide on what is best for you and your baby!

What food is the healthiest for your  babies teeth? The answer is breastmilk. The two  main dietary principles of breast feeding are function and nutrition/microbiome.

  1. Function – breast feeding promotes the growth of a newborns jaw. Babies must use their tongue to press against their palate, which is soft like wax. This movement helps to expand the palate and upper jaw which creates straight, wide upper teeth. The proper tongue position is resting at the top of the mouth which holds open the airway and promotes nasal breathing.
  2. Nutrients & Microbes
  • Nutrients – the mother passes on her own store of crucial vitamins to her baby through breast feeding. The jaw growing cells and vitamins are distributed by the mother’s body. Vitamin D and Calcium and crucial in bone and teeth development in a child, therefore the mother must be sure to have a sufficient balance between the two to pass along to her baby.
  • Microbes – Mothers transfer their gut microbiome to her newborns mouth. This occurs through special immune cells that package microbes from her gut and deliver them to her mammary glands. Breast milk is a constant delivery of microbes that save the oral cavity and eventually the gut microbiome of her child. Breast milk is packed with lots of antibodies and biologically active compounds that play a key role in boosting a baby’s immune system.

Breastfeeding and Jaw Development

Breastfeeding to develop the jaw and straight teeth is well known. As I stated earlier, it teaches a child nasal breathing. Mouth breathing is often correlated with blocked nasal sinuses, swollen tonsils, underdeveloped jaws, and crooked teeth. The proper function of the tongue (swallowing, guiding nasal breathing posture, broaden and develop the palate and jaws, neck and head posture, and healthy digestion) addresses many of these problems, starting with breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding uses many muscles, cranial nerves and jaw bones, which all work together to form the oral cavity. Chewing and swallowing play and integral role of the mouth in jaw development and healthy digestion, which begins at birth with breastfeeding. These habits and exercises learned from breastfeeding have an ongoing impact on a child’s dental health.

During the first 4-6 months, a baby will have a purely liquid diet and the tongue posture naturally sits forward in the mouth to help latch for breastfeeding. By month 4-6, babies can begin to incorporate solid foods into their diet depending on their gut lining formation. Tongue posture has now changed from a forward posture to one sitting further back in the mouth and high against the palate, which will remain this way through adulthood.

A healthy tongue posture is a vital part of kids’ dental health and can promote healthy teeth over a lifetime, preventing braces. Children who bottle feed are at a higher risk for the following symptoms, but these can be prevented if paid attention to.

Symptoms to look for in children to assess tongue posture are:

  • Difficulty breastfeeding
  • Mouth breathing
  • Open mouth posture
  • Tongue tie symptoms
  • Jaw pain
  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues

Myofunctional Therapy

(Left) Tara with her class learning myofunctional therapy this past month in Louisana.

What is myofunctional therapy?

Myofunctional therapy helps treat Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs). What are OMDS? OMDS are improper function of the tongue and facial muscles that affect breathing, swallowing, and ultimately skeletal growth and development. Myotherapy helps with a variety of chronic and acute problems that are widely experienced by both adults and children.

Do you know someone, or are you personally struggling with crooked teeth, open bite, pain in your jaw joints, or an imbalanced facial appearance? Restless sleep, waking throughout the night, snoring, or sleep apnea from a restricted airway? Bed wetting? Headaches, migraines, irritability, or ADD/ADHD? Speech troubles and articulation? Clenching and grinding or wearing a nightguard? Thumb sucking or nail biting? If any of these sound familiar, you or your friend may be struggling with an OMD.

The core of myofunctional therapy focuses on finding the CAUSE, or the WHY of the problem instead of suppressing the symptoms. Symptoms point us in the right direction and are a large focus, but myotherapy looks beyond symptoms to treat the cause instead of the effect which will help our patients find real, long-lasting wellness.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to live a life free of headaches and pain? Would you like to help to prevent swallowing and breathing issues in your child? Do you have a new baby that is having an issue with breast feeding? Myofunctional therapy may be your missing puzzle piece.

Featured Team Member: Jainee

Jainee graduated from South Puget Sound Community College with her Associates in Applied Science and Dental Assisting Degree.  She enjoys being a part of a practice that gives back to the community, provides excellent service and where she can continue to learn in the dental field. In her free time she enjoys outdoor activities like camping in the summer and spending time with her fiancé, family and dog, Nala.

Featured Team Member: Shannon

Shannon has worked as a hygienist for over 10 years and looks forward to a long and rewarding career for many more years to come. She began her journey into the dental field at Clark College in Vancouver and has practiced in both Montana and Washington State. She enjoys building trusted relationships with her patients by providing optimal care and education tailored to each individual. Patients say that her calm demeanor and easy going attitude puts them at ease and helps to make their appointments pleasant experiences.

Shannon loves to spend her free time with her husband, young daughter and their many fur babies. They also enjoy camping adventures, boating and family game nights. On the rare occasion you might find her out on her own, you would likely find her out to lunch or at Target!

Featured Team Member: Tara

Tara graduated from Pima Medical Institute and obtained her dental hygiene license in 2014. She was born and raised in Bremerton and after meeting her husband, decided to make Tumwater their home. She is thrilled to work with the amazing people of this awesome town. She whole-heartedly enjoys every aspect of working in the dental field! As her career and education expands she has found the importance of treating each individual patient as a whole and addressing overall systemic health. She has found a home at Dr. Russell and Bode’s office with like-minded teammates treating some pretty awesome patients! When she is not at work, she loves to travel and spend time with her husband and our two rescue dogs, Penny and Tex!

Featured Team Member: Hannah

Hannah has been a dental assistant for 15 years. She enjoys all aspects of dentistry, but her favorite thing about it is taking care of her patients! “Coming to work everyday, it doesn’t feel like work, it’s not something I feel I have to do but rather something I get to do!”

Outside of the office Hannah enjoys spending time with her family and friends, cooking, eating and the outdoors. She has two amazing sons and a BEAUTIFUL, GORGEOUS, SMART Silver Lab named Harper Mae.

Featured Team Member: Joey

We asked each team member to select one word that best describes Joey…

 Joey is “sweet, bubbly, pleasant, outgoing and simply delightful.”  She is also “ambitious, thorough and reliable.” Joey is “compassionate and an integral part of our team!”

Featured Team Member: Sarah

We asked each team member to select one word that best describes Sarah…

Sarah is “skilled, dedicated, focused, efficient, and thorough.” She is also “inquisitive, bright, and smart.” And finally, Sarah is “pleasant, delightful, pleasant, spirited and huggable.”  Sarah is a “rockstar!”

Featured Team Member: Alyssa

We asked each team member to select one word to best describe Alyssa…

Alyssa is “tenacious, resilient, protective and strong.”  She is also “spunky, kind, down-to-earth, and loyal.”  Finally, Alyssa is “direct, confident, responsible and reliable.”