Orthotropics is a branch of dentistry that treats misaligned bites (malocclusions) by correcting oral and head posture. Learn more about which children may benefit from this treatment and how an orthotropic specialist helps to correct tooth alignment.
What Is Orthotropic Treatment?
According to the North American Association of Facial Orthotropics (NAAFO), this specialty focuses on facial growth guidance. Studies have shown that facial growth can be negatively affected by postural changes, such as mouth breathing.
Orthotropic treatment aims to expand the upper jaw and push the upper front teeth forward. A type of brace or appliance is then worn by the child to push the bottom jaw forward. This treatment aims to permanently move the jaw and face into the ideal position when at rest.
This treatment is performed by specific health professionals who are experts in orthotropics, but it can be supplemented with treatment provided by an orthodontist (a dental brace specialist), such as headgear or an appliance to train the muscles of the mouth — also known as a myofunctional appliance.
Why Would a Child Need Orthotropics?
There are many reasons why a child's facial posture may alter, according to the NAAFO, including:
- Nutrition and diet
When a child has improper oral posture, it means that the lower and upper jaws are not equally horizontal. Instead, they drop backward and downward. If the lower jaw drops more than the upper jaw, the upper teeth can appear to stick out. This is corrected by bringing the upper jaw up and out, as well as widening it so that the tongue can rest normally against the roof of the mouth.
Orthotropics is typically most effective if the patient is between 5 and 10 years of age, explains the NAAFO.
Orthotropic Treatment Process
When you think about treatments that fix a misaligned bite, orthodontics may come to mind. This treatment often resolves the alignment issue by shifting the upper teeth backward, according to the NAAFO. But orthotropic treatments work slightly differently. These treatments do not pull teeth backward, and as a result, they can make the face more attractive and increase the airway size.
According to the London School of Facial Orthotropics, there are three phases of this treatment:
- The preparation phase, where the arch is widened and lengthened to make more room for the tongue.
- The training phase, where the patient wears appliances to change the position of the jawbone.
- The active retention phase, where the patient wears an appliance nightly to retain the position.
Typically, orthotropic treatment will take approximately 36 months to complete in total.
There are other options for fixing a misaligned bite. These include braces, tooth removal, tooth restorations and surgical procedures that lengthen, shorten and stabilize the jawbone, as the National Institutes of Health outlines.
Overall, orthotropic treatment may be a good solution to help correct any facial or jaw discrepancies in a growing child. It could be an alternative to other methods, such as orthodontics or surgery, so seek advice from your dental professional if you think that your child may benefit from this treatment.