Your face, and particularly your jaw, is made up of several bones of different types which form a complex structure. How this structure grows is partly down to your genes because you inherit much of your facial structure from your parents. But much of the way your jaw, mouth, teeth, bite and facial appearance develop is also down to what happens after you're born - for example, to the way you use your muscles to breathe, swallow, chew or talk.
Your facial structure develops slowly over childhood, and varies according to your age and gender, happening at different rates and with different growth spurts. Your lower jaw grows most during puberty (roughly 12-14 years old for girls, 15-17 years old for boys) while your upper jaw grows between ages 0-3 and then 7-10.
Your teeth are held in place by a special supporting bone called the alveolar bone which rebalances itself depending on how many teeth you have and where they are in your mouth. Added to this, your mouth muscles, your cheeks and your tongue also act to shift your teeth - in fact, the whole of your mouth can alter its balance whatever age you are.
But most people's faces stabilise after puberty, though sometimes as late as age 20. So it's particularly important to get facial structure well balanced when a child is growing up - to get facial muscles, tongue, and jaws all working well, and to leave room for permanent teeth to grow without needing any extractions.
We can offer ways of guiding the growth of a child's jaws to achieve a good balance between upper and lower. This is best done during the period of maximum bone growth, observing the child from age four onwards and making definitive measurements to identify any problems at about age eight. We can then provide fixed appliances to realign the jaws correctly.
When a child reaches puberty, and all their permanent teeth have appeared, they may need treatment to make sure their teeth are arranged correctly in the alveolar bone, that their bite works well and that their smile looks good. However, such treatment can be used at absolutely any age to realign teeth that haven't grouped correctly or have moved out of place.