Could Your Child’s Teeth Cause Ear Infections?
Researchers have debated whether malocclusion—a less-than-ideal bite pattern, such as crossbite—plays a role in the development of middle ear infections (otitis media). Now, a recently published study says that the two conditions may be linked after all.
Middle ear infections occur when fluid builds up behind the eardrum. Symptoms of acute otitis media include redness, pain, fever and often pus. A second type, called otitis media with effusion, is more common and can be caused by an infection, allergies and exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke. Both types can cause hearing problems, and repeat infections can cause scarring.
The study examined 50 children between 6 and 8 years of age, including 25 children with ear infections and 25 healthy children who formed a control group. Children in both groups were given an ear, nose and throat examination, and dental casts were made of the children’s mouths so measurements could be taken.
The researchers then looked at the relationships between these measurements and the children’s tonsils and adenoids to determine whether the examination findings and bite patterns were associated. They found that 76% of the children in the ear infection group, a significant number, had posterior crossbite malocclusion (a malocclusion involving the back teeth).
Despite the results of this study, earlier research examining the relationship between ear infection and malocclusion patterns has been less conclusive. In fact, both a 1998 study of 112 children under 6 years of age and a 2010 study of 100 children from 4 to 10 years of age found no relationship between bite patterns and ear infections.
So what does this mean for you as a parent? If your child has ear infections, let Dr. Jared at KiDDS Dental know. We can evaluate your child to see if he/she may benefit from having his or her bite analyzed. If a malocclusion does exist, you can consider options for having it corrected.
The effect of poor bite patterns can extend far beyond ear infections. Malocclusion can cause many oral health problems, including abnormal tooth wear, tooth decay and eventual tooth loss. A bite analysis performed early may prevent these more serious conditions from developing later in life.
Dr. Jared would love to discuss further information on the correlation between ear infections and malocclusion patterns. Call us to schedule an appointment today! (509)-891-7070.