Functional orthodontics is an approach that focuses on more than just making teeth straight. Instead, the goal is to create a more functional relationship between the teeth, jaws, and other tissues, which includes making teeth straight and much more. This includes the creation of a healthy, open airway and the avoidance of bite problems later on. It can even help correct facial appearance complaints like a weak or receding chin. Early intervention helps this orthodontic approach achieve all its goals with less invasive interventions.
If you would like to learn more about the functional orthodontic approach in the Detroit area, please call (248) 656-2020 today for an appointment with a cosmetic dentist at Rochester Advanced Dentistry.
What Is Functional Orthodontics?
Functional orthodontics is an approach to orthodontic treatment that is focused on the function of the jaw as much a on the appearance. It is informed by the ideas of neuromuscular dentistry, which stresses the complex and dynamic interrelationship between the many components of the bite system, including the muscles, bones, teeth, nerves, airway, and more. So functional orthodontics looks at potential problems arising from imbalances in these relationships and helps restore proper functional relationships.
Because the teeth and jaw develop functionally together over a long period of time, functional orthodontics strives to emulate this pattern by intervening at an early age. Intervening as young as age 4 allows us to use low-force techniques to help the teeth and jaw develop into a healthy relationship. And because we’re emulating the natural developmental pathway, it establishes the groundwork for results that are more stable in the long run.
How Airway Problems Become Bite Problems (That Become Airway Problems)
One of the key problems that underlies many jaw development issues is mouth breathing. Mouth breathing typically begins when a young child is exposed to allergens that cause swelling in the tonsils and adenoids. This swelling obstructs the nasal airway, which causes a child to breathe through their mouth.
Mouth breathing takes the elements of the mouth out of their proper position.In particular, the tongue, which is supposed to provide pressure that helps expand the upper arch is now forced down to the lower arch. This impedes the normal development of both arches, and creates an undesirable relationship between the jaws that forces the lower jaw back. This retruded jaw not only affects a person’s appearance, it affects their airway and the function of the jaw system.
Because the jaw is the primary bony support for the airway, when it’s pushed backward, it causes the airway to narrow, which can contribute to snoring and sleep apnea. It also puts stress on the temporomandibular joints, contributing to temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ/TMD).
Functional Orthodontic Appliances
Functional orthodontic appliances are designed to apply force not just to the teeth, but to the arches as well to help expand the space available for teeth.
Some of the functional orthodontic appliances we use are:
Sagittal: Sagittal appliances come in two varieties: anterior and posterior. These are both removable appliances that are secured by clasps that go around the teeth. Both have screws that are adjusted regularly to provide more force and increase the correction provided. The anterior appliance is used to to move the incisors forward and correct crossbite. The posterior appliance is used to move molars outward.
Hyrax: This is a fixed appliance that is used to expand an arch. It can be used with mixed dentition or with all permanent teeth. It is secured to metal bands around the teeth, and has screws in the appliance to allow it to be gently expanded twice a week. It is worn for six months after desired correction is reached to help stabilize the results.
Tandem: The Tandem appliance has fixed and removable components. The upper part is a fixed Hyrax appliance. The lower part is a removable splint. It is used to correct serious underbite caused by deficient upper jaws.
Rick-A-Nator: This removable appliance consists of a ramp that helps move the lower jaw forward by adjusting the rest position of the lower incisors. It is usable only when the overbite is less than 4 mm (about 1/6th inch).
Schwartz: This removable appliance can be used to help widen either the upper or lower arch. It’s a plastic appliance secured to the teeth with clasps. It has midline screws that are gradually turned to provide the proper force to help expand the jaw.
Which Is the Right Functional Appliance for You or Your Child?
If you are looking for functional orthodontic treatment for either you or your child, a comprehensive exam is necessary to make recommendations about the best appliance in your situation.