A bad bite, crooked teeth and misalignment of teeth are termed malocclusions in dentitsry. Orthodontics is a particular field of dentistry that incorporates the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of malocclusions and/or facial irregularities. We look at the shape and size of the bones of the face, the size of the airway and how this has affected facial aesthetics. Prominent chins, narrow faces, long faces, pinched noses and pursed lips, are all examples of the physical changes that can occur as a result of the mentioned irregularities. Function can also change alongside these structural changes for example affecting one’s ability to chew, speak, swallow, and breathe properly.
There is a huge correlation between patients that have a bad bite and a compromised airway. Using orthodontics the jaw can be encouraged to grow and develop to its correct growth potential opening the nasal and oral airway, correcting the position of the teeth and skeletal symmetry, and improving the appearance of the face. Treating the teeth without treating the airway, which is standard practice in traditional orthodontics, is a superficial fix that often results in a myriad of problems, orthodontic relapse and missed opportunity at enhancing optimal facial structure. There are a huge degree of health benefits associated with this airway-focused orthodontic approach. This is also termed dentofacial orthopaedics as it allows us to address these issues early.
We examine the nose, mouth and pharynx (throat) since blockages in any of these places lead to compromised breathing and posture in the head, neck, and lower spine. Typically, the first phase of treatment is always correcting the airway and establishing the optimal position of the jaw. Once this has been accomplished, teeth are then straightened.
Airway problems can start a young as from birth. These in turn encourage a poor tongue posture. The tongue is key in the development of the dental arches as it is a very strong muscle. Incorrect tongue habitus seriously impacts other systems of the body.
Myofunctional therapy is making its way up the ladder. It is essentially a therapy that allows you to re-train your tongue to have the best posture to not only affect your breathing but also your growth and speech in a positive way. Myofunctional therapy may begin as early as 2 to 3 years of age, followed by appliance therapy when the child is mature enough to cooperate and participate in his or her treatment. When used together, myofunctional therapy and appliance therapy are able to enlarge the facial skeleton, altering the position of the jaw that in turn corrects the airway. Airway problems can be cured in children (whose bones are still forming) and successfully treated in adults.
A certain percentage of malocclusions can be attributed to genetic factors, environmental factors or a combination of the two. Academics continue to debate the cause but we at TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre know that intervention for children can affect growth and development in a positive way. Research conducted by Weston Price in the 1930s, suggested that factors such as nutrition have more influence on our bodies than genetic predisposition. Corrective appliances such as functional appliances, braces, and Advanced Lightwire Functionals (ALFs) are used to treat malocclusions of the teeth as well as those caused by skeletal discrepancies.
There are 3 classes of malocclusion based on occlusion (the position in which our upper dentition meets our lower dentition)
- Class I
- Class II
- Class III
A. Normal bite – B. Class I – C. Class II – D. Class III
Orthodontic treatment may be required if you or your child experience any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing, or abnormal breathing patterns
- Difficulty chewing due to pain in teeth or poor teeth alignment
- Crowded or crooked teeth
- Abnormal positioning of permanent teeth
- Pain in the jaw or face
- Difficulty swallowing
- Incorrectly positioned tongue at rest as well as while swallowing/speaking
- Difficulty speaking clearly
- Frequently biting the cheeks, tongue, or lip, causing irritation to the mouth
Types of appliances most commonly used for early expansion and correction of malocclusions:
- ALFs: Advanced Lightwire Functionals
- Quad helix
If we identify these conditions in either adults or children a referral will be made to the appropriate clinician.