Orthotropics is a specialized approach that can bring about significant changes in a child’s facial growth and oral health.
In this article, we delve into the details of orthotropic treatment, its purpose, process, and how it differs from traditional orthodontic treatment.
Understanding the Concept of Orthotropics
According to the North American Association of Facial Orthotropics, orthotropics is a branch of dentistry that emphasizes facial growth guidance.
It operates on the principle that postural changes, such as mouth breathing, can negatively impact facial growth.
Orthotropic treatment aims to rectify these issues by expanding the upper jaw and pushing the upper front teeth forward.
A specific type of brace or appliance is then used to push the bottom jaw forward. This method is designed to permanently shift the jaw and face into the ideal position when at rest.
Who Can Benefit From Orthotropics?
There are various factors that can alter a child’s facial posture, including breastfeeding, diet, and allergies.
When a child’s oral posture is incorrect, it means that the lower and upper jaws are not equally horizontal. Instead, they drop backward and downward.
This can cause the upper teeth to protrude, which 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 most effective if the patient is between 5 and 10 years of age, as stated by the NAAFO.
Orthotropic Treatment Process: A Three-Phase Approach
Orthotropic treatments are unique in the sense that they do not pull teeth backward. As a result, they can enhance facial attractiveness and increase the airway size.
As outlined by the London School of Facial Orthotropics, the orthotropic treatment process involves three phases:
- The preparation phase: This is when the arch is widened and lengthened to make more room for the tongue.
- The training phase: During this phase, the patient wears appliances to change the position of the jawbone.
- The active retention phase: This involves wearing an appliance nightly to retain the position.
Typically, the orthotropic treatment process takes about 36 months to complete.
Orthotropics Vs. Orthodontics
At first glance, orthodontics and orthotropics may seem similar as they both aim to treat malocclusions.
However, their approaches and outcomes vary significantly.
Orthodontics primarily focuses on straightening teeth using mechanical braces and tooth extraction, while orthotropics seeks to correct posture, widen the maxilla, and allow the teeth and jaw to adjust naturally into the correct position.
- Treatment primarily begins later in life, usually at ages 13 and above.
- Treatment is mainly done using mechanical braces.
- Tooth extraction is a common practice to create more space.
- Treatment starts as early as possible to create lifelong changes.
- Orthopedic appliances, rather than braces, are used for treatment.
- The maxilla and cranial bones are expanded and developed to create space instead of extracting teeth.
The Difference Between Orthotropics and Orthodontics
A significant point of divergence between orthotropics and orthodontics is their approach to creating space for the teeth.
Orthodontics usually involves tooth extraction to create extra space, whereas orthotropics prefers to expand the mouth, specifically the maxilla, so all teeth can fit.
According to orthotropics theory, the tongue’s position greatly influences facial posture.
Ideally, the tongue should be firmly against the roof of the mouth, which ensures that both the lower and upper jaw are in contact, and the mouth is closed.
This results in the forward and widened position of the top jaw, creating balance, symmetry, and room for the teeth.
However, when the mouth remains open at rest, the top jaw tends to narrow and shorten, pulling the bottom jaw downwards and backwards. This creates a longer, flatter face, an undershot chin, or ‘overbite’, and leaves less room for the teeth.
This condition often arises from the habit of breathing through the mouth instead of the nose.
The Role of Appliances in Orthotropics and Orthodontics
Given the different treatment approaches, the function and types of appliances used in orthodontics and orthotropics also differ.
Orthodontics primarily uses braces designed to force the teeth into alignment.
On the contrary, orthotropics avoids the use of braces wherever possible and favors ‘removable expansion appliances’ designed to correct posture, widen the maxilla, and allow the teeth to fall into place naturally.
The Ideal Age for Treatment
The age at which treatment begins is another significant difference between orthotropics and orthodontics.
As orthodontics focuses mainly on straightening teeth, it typically starts treatment at a later age, usually when the patient is 13 or older.
However, orthotropics recommends starting treatment at an early age to lay the foundations for proper facial growth, thereby avoiding the need for surgical intervention later in life.
Comparing the Outcomes of Orthodontics and Orthotropics
Orthotropic treatment often produces vastly different results compared to traditional orthodontics. Studies conducted on identical twins, one treated with conventional orthodontics and the other with orthotropics, clearly illustrate this difference.
While orthodontics can certainly correct malocclusions, orthotropics additionally aims to improve facial growth and appearance, making it a potential alternative for growing children.
As always, it’s crucial to seek professional advice from your dental health provider to determine the most suitable treatment option for your child.