What is Dentofacial Orthopedics?
You’ve probably heard of orthodontics, which involves straightening the teeth using wire braces or clear aligners.
Advances in the orthodontic field have been astounding over the years. A century ago, orthodontics applied only to adults. Eventually, orthodontic researchers began to study the growth and development of the face in an attempt to correct deficient growth trends in kids, because treatment of the fully developed individual is much more difficult.
This new branch of orthodontics is called dentofacial orthopedics or interceptive orthodontics. Dentofacial orthopedics focuses on the foundation for proper tooth growth and alignment by guiding facial growth and development.
As your child grows
As your child grows, the development of the upper and lower jaw may happen at different rates, causing misalignment. Malformation of the facial structures can have serious negative consequences for teeth alignment, and overall health and development of your child.
As parents, we want what is best for our children in every way. Many parents are well aware of the specific milestones that our children should reach during the first eighteen months of life. However, it is essential to evaluate several substantial growth and development factors in each child during the first decade of life.
Surprisingly, it is your child’s dentist who becomes the guardian of healthy facial growth and development. The role of your dentist is more than just taking care of your child’s teeth. The goal is to monitor and guide the growth and development of young children to achieve the following:
1. A pleasing face which equals optimal esthetics and symmetry.
2. A beautiful “full smile.”
3. A healthy and functional bite.
4. No TMJ problems.
5. No sleep-disordered breathing.
6. A lifetime of oral health.
Many parents are unaware that 60% of their child’s facial development is completed by the age of 8 and that 90% of facial development is completed by the age of 12. Therefore, the earlier your child sees a dentist, the better the opportunity to detect and correct any growth and development problems that may be present.
Facial growth is the sum of the individual growth of each bone that comprises the face. Several influences can cause an unequal growth of a child’s face, and this imbalance may affect a child’s health and appearance. A normal balanced face is the result of more than just bone growth; it is the balance of normally functioning muscles and the ability to breathe normally. Scientific literature and studies have shown that when these delicate facial balances are altered, changes in health and appearance occur.
One of the most common consequences of a child’s abnormal facial growth and development is a compromised airway, resulting in the inability to breathe correctly through the nose. You can read more about this issue at AirwayHealthCenters.com.
Children who cannot breathe well through their nose will tend to breathe through their mouths. Mouth breathing sets up a chain of events that may severely impact not only the health of a child but also the way a child’s facial features develop, and ultimately the way a child looks as an adult.
A compromised airway in a growing child reveals many adverse effects. The child’s tongue often positions itself snugly in the lower jaw to allow a child to breathe more readily through the mouth, changing the growth of the lower jaw so that it grows more vertically. This change in growth direction makes the child’s face grow longer. At the same time, since nasal breathing is severely compromised, the upper jaw and midface (the nasal bones, cheekbones, and bones supporting the tissue of the face) fail to develop at a normal rate because the natural growth stimulant of airflow through the nose is absent. The result is a deficiency of growth of the upper jaw and midface, which added to the long facial growth from the lower jaw, directly impacts the facial balance and beauty of a child and later as an adult.
At Sacramento Wellness Orthodontics, we work closely with other healthcare providers to help to assess and eliminate the causative factors of facial development abnormalities. When corrected early in a child’s life, facial growth is encouraged to return to harmonious growth and development. In those cases where facial growth changes are significant and facial harmony is disrupted, the dentist may intervene and guide the child’s growth back to normal. Using various oral appliances, the dentist can successfully modify the abnormal growth pattern and restore the balance of growth that nature intended.
Because it works best in conjunction with a patient’s growth and development, functional orthodontics is best begun when children are young — around ages 5 to 7.
Treatment usually occurs in two phases:
Phase 1: Patients are fitted with oral appliances to develop and remodel facial and the upper and lower jawbones. Treatment timeframes generally last from 4 to 12 months but sometimes last longer.
Phase 2: After the jaws have developed, and all the permanent teeth have appeared, patients wear traditional braces or clear aligners to straighten their teeth if needed. Treatment time typically lasts another 6 to 18 months.
Things to Look For When Deciding
If you have any concerns about your child’s ability to breathe or the rate of growth and development, discuss it with our doctors. Make an appointment for evaluation by calling (916) 581-8867.