The shape of a child’s mouth and jaw can affect many aspects of their development. One developmental concern that parents should be aware of is a high palate. The problems a high palate can cause in children can affect breathing, speech, and even social and psychological development.
What Is a High Palate?
A high palate occurs when the roof of the mouth is higher than normal, arching upward excessively. This creates a space between the upper jaw and the roof of the mouth that is narrower than it should be for normal oral and facial development.
Causes of a High Palate
There are a variety of conditions and habits that can cause or contribute to the development of a high palate.
Genetic conditions that affect bone and facial development, such as Treacher Collins, Marfan, or Crouzon syndrome, can cause a high palate. These syndromes are treatable if caught early but may result in permanent bone deformities.
Thumb Sucking or Prolonged Pacifier Use
Prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use can also contribute to the development of a high palate. These habits exert pressure on the roof of the mouth, pushing it upwards over time and potentially leading to a high palate.
Consequences of High Palate
A child diagnosed with a high palate should receive treatment as early as possible to avoid more aggressive treatments like surgery in adolescence and adulthood. The problems a high palate can cause in children include the following.
The narrow space at the roof of the mouth can restrict airflow, leading to difficulties in breathing, especially during sleep, which can result in conditions like sleep apnea.
Crossbite and Malocclusion
A high palate often leads to crossbite, a condition where the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth, and malocclusion, which is characterized by misaligned teeth. Both can lead to chewing problems and jaw pain.
The shape of the palate influences speech. A high palate can interfere with the proper movement of the tongue, leading to speech difficulties.
Treatments for a High Palate
Fortunately, if a high palate is diagnosed in early childhood, professionals can begin interventions that may prevent the problem from worsening and encourage a wider and flatter palate to develop as the child grows.
Palate expanders are devices worn inside the mouth that gradually widen the upper jaw, lowering the palate to a more normal position.
In severe cases, jaw surgery may be necessary. This involves surgically altering the shape of the jaw to correct the high palate.
Breaking a Thumb Sucking Habit To Avoid High Palate Problems
Breaking a thumb-sucking habit in children can help prevent the development of a high palate. The most effective way to help a child overcome this habit is to use a device to stop thumb sucking that takes away the pleasurable sensation that thumb sucking provides. The child loses interest as the habit no longer provides the kind of comfort or calming effect it once did. They’ll turn to other comfort items or activities that can distract or redirect them in a soothing way.
While a high palate can cause several problems in children, there are also effective treatments available. Early detection and treatment are key to preventing long-term complications. Always consult a dental professional if you suspect your child has a high palate.