Orthodontics Is About More Than Straight Teeth
Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that focuses on the “healthy” alignment of teeth so that the individual may achieve the most functional — and esthetically pleasing — alignment possible.
In fact, orthodontics began as a set of procedures and techniques to move crowded, misaligned teeth into a proper functional position. Period. The fact that this alignment made the teeth esthetically pleasing was a pure byproduct.
Advances in the orthodontic field have been astounding over the years. A century ago, orthodontics applied only to adults. Then orthodontic researchers began to study the growth and development of the face in an attempt to correct poor growth trends that would make treatment of the fully developed individual more difficult. This new branch of this specialty was referred to as Dentofacial Orthopedics or Interceptive Orthodontics.
Nurture > Nature
Poor growth patterns and identification of their root causes became the focus by the 70’s. Early oral habits (finger/thumb sucking, overuse of pacifiers), the inability to breathe through the nose (chronic nasal airway obstruction), and the impact these conditions had on facial growth and maturity, were recognized and evaluated.
Lab-simulated chronic nasal obstruction was shown to have profound effects on the growth of the face and jaw. Environmental impact on the growing face proved to be extremely significant. We now pay close attention to any factor that may contribute to one’s inability to breathe, for this results in a directional change in facial form/anatomy from its genetically programmed potential.
Getting To The Root Of The Problem
At Groton Wellness we work hard to identify the root causes of these growth alterations, looking specifically at diet and specific allergy triggers. Working closely with allergists, MDs, and pediatric specialists, our aim is to restore proper growth.
Speed of recognition and treatment are the keys to success. The faster the nasal airway is opened, the better the treatment outcome. Facially, a child matures very quickly, most critical growth completed before the age of 10. Corrections after growth is complete are more prone to failure and relapse. Also, these early childhood growth problems can lay the groundwork for more severe medical conditions in later life – the most serious being Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD).
All orthodontic/cranial orthopedic treatment at our center begins with a thorough diagnosis which includes an examination, dental/bite impressions, facial and dental pictures, low dose x-rays, and a detailed computer-aided assessment of key structures of the face, jaws and teeth.
The growing patient:
It is usually advantageous to treat the growing patient in phases. Phase One helps redirect growth more favorably, followed by a retention phase during which we wait for all of the remaining permanent teeth to grow into place. Once all the permanent teeth have erupted we reevaluate to determine if a second phase is necessary. Phase Two treatment is commonly shorter in duration compared with traditional orthodontics and may not be required.
The Benefits Of Early Intervention
Traditional orthodontics treats teenage children with the aim of straightening teeth and “fixing” the bite. Conversely, Early Orthopedic Orthodontics can be performed on kids as young as four with the aim of jaw development. Critically different from the traditional, this approach creates more room in the jaw for proper tongue placement, breathing and speech patterns. In many cases, if jaw development is corrected at an early age, permanent teeth have a better chance of coming in straight, thus decreasing the need for braces.
How does it work?
Lightwire functional appliances exert gentle force and have been shown to be very effective at promoting proper jaw growth.
Trainers and Myo-functional appliances are removable, and successful in repositioning jaws, especially for the child with lower jaws that are too far back. These appliances help train the lower jaw to grow more forward, thus improving oral function.
The grown patient:
Treatment of adults falls into two main categories:
- Conventional orthodontics (braces)
- Invisible braces (Invisalign)
Consisting of a series of thin, clear, plastic coverings that slip over the teeth and provide incremental correction of crowded teeth, Invisalign braces are worn full-time with the exception of mealtime and when brushing. The advantage of Invisalign: more aesthetically pleasing, and more stable in the correction of the TMD patient. This is due to its “mouth-guard protection effect” on the jaw. Invisalign is limited, however, to treat only certain kinds of orthodontic problems and usually takes longer to achieve targeted correction than conventional orthodontics. The decision to treat with Invisalign can only be determined after a comprehensive diagnosis has been completed.
Our Biological Orthodontist
Our Orthodontist manages both tooth movement and guidance of facial growth and development of patients during childhood. She evaluates how the jaws and bite affect the entire body. The orthopedic model of the body allows for cranial bones to move at their sutures, allowing widening or lengthening of the jaw to complete normal development.
Our Orthodontist recommends seeing kids early in their dental development to see if she can aid mother nature as they grow. She begins to monitor jaw growth as early as 2 years of age to determine if early (Phase I) treatment is needed and the most effective time to take advantage of their jaw growth. Age 9-11 is a period of significant growth in most children and it is important to monitor that growth in children who have certain types of bite problems.
Problems with bad bites (malocclusion) and overcrowding of the teeth start at a young age as the child develops. Improper breathing, problems in the nose, mouth, and ears and thumb sucking can all create problems for the dental facial growth. Our Orthodontist evaluates a variety of different factors, including the correct positioning of the tongue, the airways, and the relationship between the lower and upper jaw to determine the best treatment method to allow the proper facial growth. She aligns the teeth and jaws to optimize structural alignment to allow for better breathing patterns, open up the nasal cavities, decrease allergies and sinus infections, correct speech problems and swallowing patterns.
While minimizing destructive forces on the teeth, jaw joints, and spine, her treatment modalities can eliminate the chances of losing permanent teeth, minimize jaw and tooth pain, abscessed teeth, headaches, and back pain over the life of the patient. Functional orthopedics can help decrease the need for surgery, decrease the need for extractions, decrease time in braces, improve the facial profile and provide a very stable, finished result. During phase-one treatment, Our Orthodontist uses a variety of specialized functional appliance therapies, such as tongue thrust treatment, expansion appliances, advancement of the lower jaw appliance, and habit breaking appliances.
Once Phase I is complete, she follows children for years to observe the eruption of the adult teeth and make sure there is proper jaw growth and development before beginning the second phase of treatment, which usually involves braces or Invisalign to straighten the teeth.
Our Orthodontist uses a light wire bonded braces system, using light continuous level of force, which is biologically effective for the teeth and supporting tissues and eliminates the need for monthly “tightening” and works with your biology, causing less discomfort and shorter treatment time. She uses a full line of high-quality orthodontic appliances, including metal free Clarity™ ADVANCED Ceramic Brackets, which offer the ultimate combination of aesthetics and performance for her patients. In addition to metal-free braces, she uses metal-free orthodontic wires and esthetic retainers and has extensive experience in Invisalign treatment, as a certified Invisalign, Invisalign Express, and Invisalign Teen provider.