Functional Orthodontics

Traditional orthodontics typically treats teenage children with the aim of straightening teeth and “fixing” the bite. Conversely, Functional Orthodontics can be performed on kids as young as 4 years old with the aim of jaw development. This approach, also known as Early Orthopedic Orthodontics creates more room in the jaw for proper tongue placement, breathing, and speech patterns. In many cases, if jaw development is corrected at an early age, the permanent teeth have a better chance of coming in straight, thus decreasing the need for future braces.

We have found that it is usually advantageous to treat the growing patient in phases. Phase One helps redirect growth more favorably, followed by a monitoring phase during which we wait for all of the remaining permanent teeth to grow into place. Once all the permanent teeth have erupted, we re-evaluate to determine if a second phase is necessary. Phase Two treatment is commonly shorter in duration compared with traditional orthodontics and is often not required at all.

How does it work?

Phase One:

Advanced Lightwire Functional (ALF) appliances exert gentle forces and have been shown to be very effective at promoting proper jaw growth. Originally developed by Dr. Derrick Nordstrom, these appliances were designed to work in harmony with the cranial bones and have been linked with much improvement in overall health as well as enhanced jaw development. Ideally, this ALF phase is completed before age 10.

ALF appliance

Trainers and Myo-functional appliances are removable acrylic appliances, and are successful in repositioning jaws, especially for the child with either an upper or lower jaw that is retrusive (or set too far back.) These appliances help stabilize the bite and encourage growth in the forward direction, thus improving oral function and facial profiles.

Before & After
Myofunctional Appliances

Phase Two:

At our office, we offer patients Invisalign orthodontics as Phase Two for the growing child. This is typically done in the teenage years; however, adults of any age can choose to have Invisalign as well.

Invisalign treatment is the process of wearing a series of clear, removable aligners that gradually and gently straighten the teeth. The aligners are metal free, and are made of a patented thermoplastic material called SmartTrack, which was developed exclusively for Invisalign treatment.

Invisalign clear aligners are FDA-approved and contain no BPA, BPS, latex, or gluten. They are thin, clear, and fit snugly over the teeth, making them virtually invisible.

Oftentimes if the child has had Phase One (jaw development), then the Invisalign phase is relatively quick, simple, and involves cosmetically correcting the teeth and bite.


Our integrative approach:

At Natural Smiles Dental Care, we work hard to identify the root causes of these growth alterations, looking specifically at breathing habits, speech issues, tongue placement, diet, and specific allergy triggers. This is especially important in the child who does a lot of mouth breathing. The faster that nasal breathing is established, the better the treatment outcome. Facially, a child matures very quickly, with the most critical growth completed before the age of 10. Also, these early childhood growth problems can lay the groundwork for more severe medical conditions in later life – the most serious being Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD).

Once these root causes are identified, we work with other practitioners and modalities to help correct these growth problems. This may include lip-tie or tongue-tie frenectomies, and/or support with a Craniosacral Therapist or Myofunctional Therapist. At our office,
Jackie Lowe is available for Craniosacral Therapy, while Jessica Emmert is available for Myofunctional Therapy.

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