At Macdonald Orthodontics we have built our knowledge both in general orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, which we often use to help our younger patients during a two-phase treatment plan.
Using dentofacial orthopedics, we can guide the growth of a patient’s facial bones, along with correcting imbalances between the face and jaws—a process that can start when a patient is about seven or eight.
Dentofacial orthopedics is a specialized branch of orthodontics, earned after building the orthodontic specialization and completing two to three years in an orthodontic residency.
The Difference Between Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
Here are our simple definitions to help understand this specialty:
- Orthodontics: This dental specialty is the science of guiding teeth into different positions.
- Dentofacial orthopedics: Guiding facial growth and development.
“Dentofacial” refers to the teeth and face, while the term “orthopedic” refers to working with bones and muscles. So, along with already understanding dentistry and orthodontics, this specialty includes a deep knowledge of how the face, jaw, and teeth all interact and develop.
Guiding Children’s Facial Development
Children are often the best candidates for dentofacial orthopedics because most of the development of the face happens while they’re still growing.
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends a first orthodontic exam for children at around age seven. This lets us catch issues before they go too far. If a problem is developing, we can start a phase-one treatment to gently guide your child’s teeth and jaw.
Using dentofacial orthopedics, we can also step back and diagnose issues in the overall facial structure. By integrating this into the treatment plan, your child could get an even better-looking, healthier smile.
Jaw Bones: Defining the Smile
The growth of the jawbones has everything to do with the way the smile looks—often for life. The upper and lower jaws help to position the lower and middle parts of the face, including the sinuses, bottom of the nose, and cheekbones.
As a child grows, the upper and lower jaws can grow at different speeds, changing the alignment between them. For example, the lower jaw might end up in front of the upper jaw, causing an underbite.
These issues can develop because of other factors, such as thumb-sucking or breathing problems. Before the jaws stop growing in the mid- to late-teens, we can intervene to guide the bones.
How Do We Direct the Growth of the Jaws?
We use several time-tested, reliable devices to improve the jaws, make room for adult teeth, and balance the face. These include:
- Lower Jaw Expander: This gradually moves the lower teeth further apart, making room for adult teeth as they come in.
- Palate Expander: This widens the space in the upper jaw by expanding the cartilage.
- Block: These are small ramps that use the natural movement of the bite to gradually correct misalignment.
- Activator: This is a device that looks a little like a retainer that moves the jaws as they develop and helps to guide adult teeth as they come in.
- Headgear: Certain bite issues require forces outside of the mouth; headgear applies this force using straps around the face.
Before or after using one of these solutions, we might also install traditional braces to move teeth to better positions and/or realign your child’s bite.
Comprehensive Care for a Fully Functional Smile at Macdonald Orthodontics
You can wait until your child is seven to schedule their first orthodontist appointment. Or bring them in at any age if you notice problems with the jaws or teeth. If issues stand out to you, it doesn’t hurt to at least get a quick evaluation.
You can get help for your child so their face, teeth, and jaws will develop in the healthiest and best-looking way possible. Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics can lead to a beautiful smile. Call Macdonald Orthodontics to diagnose your child now.