The Importance of Dealing with Slight Deformities in Childhood - Adenoids - The Ears and Teeth - Hare-lip and Cleft Palate - Squinting - Birthmarks - Warts and Moles - Deformities of the Feet - How to Correct Them - Weak Ankles - Flat Foot - Club Foot
It would be a very difficult matter to find an adult man or woman who is absolutely free from deformity. The " deformity " may only consist of irregular teeth, a tendency to stoop short sight, or some weakness of the ankle-joints. It may be a very evident menace to health. The point is that all deformities might be modified considerably, and some might be cured, if they were dealt with early enough in life. It is in the nursery and school days that deformities generally make their first appearance. The child is late in walking, his ankles " give," or he seems to walk somewhat flatly on the sole of the foot. " He will grow out of it," the mother says when anyone remarks that the child's feet and ankles seem to be a little weak. That is the wrong point of view. The child, to a certain extent, may grow out of any deformity, but in most cases some permanent damage is done. In the case of such a deformity as lateral curvature of the spine, the whole health and vitality is affected for the worse.
Even a neglected flat foot may cause lameness later in life, and is a distinct physical drawback to any person, apart altogether from the question that any slight malformation of the feet takes away considerably from grace and deportment.
What are the main deformities of childhood, and how can they be dealt with?
1. Adenoids and nasal defects are a common cause of facial deformity. They give a characteristic expression of stupidity, with the open mouth, tight nostrils, and dropped jaw. Adenoids were dealt with on page 364, Vol. I., and, to this article readers must refer for further information on the subject - a subject of great importance.
Other nasal defects are obstruction in one or both nostrils, from the septum, or partition, between the nostrils being pushed to one side. This deformity is a frequent cause of constant cold, and, by obstructing the breathing, is very apt to produce deformities of the chest. It sometimes arises as the. result of a blow or a knock from a ball.
2. Prominent ears and irregular teeth are other deformities of the face which can be corrected in early years. The ears are often pressed forward by bonnet-strings in the days of infancy, and by permitting the child to lie with the ear doubled up under the head. Mothers ought to be very careful to lay the child down with the ear flat against the pillow, and gentle massage several times a day on the front of the ear, to flatten it into the normal position, will help considerably to counteract any forward tendency of the ear.
Irregularities of the teeth may be caused by baby comforters, by sucking the fingers so that the lower milk-teeth are levered forwards, by the habit of keeping the mouth open, and placing the fingers between the jaws, which press the upper teeth forwards. Children should never be allowed to suck anything. During the first few years the jawbones are soft and easily forced out of position. The growing teeth can be entirely altered in shape by bad habits, and the whole appearance of the face is affected by irregularities of the teeth and jaw. When the second teeth are coming the mother should note carefully that they are regular in shape and position. Any irregularity or pressure of one tooth upon another should be attended to by a dentist, and nowadays modern preventive dentistry can do a great deal to preserve the teeth and to improve any irregularities in the early years. Apart from the apperancc altogether, irregular teeth and deformities of the jaw affect the masticating power of the teeth. The speech also may be impaired, .as the movements of the tongue are interfered with by any irregularity of the jaw-line. The mother should take every care to preserve the first teeth long as possible. When the first double are lost too soon, the jaws are allowed to come too close together behind, bringing pressure on the front teeth, and causing the upper teeth to be levered outwards. In the perfectly normal mouth there ought to be no spaces between the teeth, or between the top and lower jaws when these are closed together. Parents are far too apt to neglect the first teeth. These should be as carefully preserved as if they were the permanent set. All small holes should be stopped at once, and every attention paid to Cleanliness of the mouth and teeth.
3. Hare-lip, cleft palate, and tongue-tie are deformities present at birth, and no domestic measures have any effect upon them. Now, however, with surgical care, a great deal can be done by modern surgical methods to correct even bad cases of hare-lip and cleft palate.
Tongue-tie can very easily be corrected by the doctor, who will snip with a pair of surgical scissors the little fold of membrane which holds the tongue down. When this is not done, the baby cannot suck properly, and speech may be affected in after life.