The Functional Orthodontic technique is one that employs the use of appliances to enhance and modify the growth of one or both jaws.
Orthodontic appliances are used in the early stages of growth of the children as early as 7 or 8 years old. If crowding is present the appliances are used to expand the growth of the jaws increasing the volume of space available for the eruption of the permanent teeth. Therefore extraction of permanent teeth is usually not necessary.
The true difference to standard orthodontic treatment is the importance we place on the correct position of the mandible (lower jaw) to the Temporal bone (a part of the skull) in the joint we know as the TMJ. We feel as Functional Orthodontists that the starting position of the TMJ should be evaluated before treatment is started. If it is found that the joint does not show the correct relationship, then the correct position should be found and then the teeth should be moved into a position that supports the correct position. Otherwise, a painful situation can occur, leading to future problems.
Our office treats cases in two ways. If we start a child early, we can modify the growth with appliances and then end the treatment with braces for a shorter time, when all of the permanent teeth have erupted. If we start later when all of the permanent teeth have erupted, the use of braces is accompanied by different appliances. We try very hard to do the cases without extraction of permanent teeth. It has been found in some studies that when teeth are extracted, the orthodontic treatment that follows can cause problems with the TMJ if the correct relationship is not taken into account.
As Functional Orthodontists, we also believe that not only can we change the growth of the mandible but also move it into a more forward position. Many conventional orthodontists do not believe this is possible and they subsequently extract permanent teeth to compensate for their treatment. In some cases, this has been shown to prevent the natural downward-forward growth of the mandible and cause TMJ problems long after orthodontic treatment has been completed.
One of our greatest concerns is the proper growth and development of our patients. If habits are causing a poor pattern of growth, we will instruct the parents with various techniques to modify or discontinue that habit. Proper bottle feeding habits and the care of baby teeth in infants is discussed. The growth of the infant can be dramatically changed if bottle feeding is not discontinued at the proper time or if a child is allowed to have a finger or pacifier habit for too long. At these early stages of growth an Orthodontic problem can be caused.
We are concerned with the proper development of the airway. If a problem is detected with, for example, the tonsils and adenoids, we will recommend the proper consultation with an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist and subsequent treatment. A child is supposed to be able to breathe through his nose.
The proper development of the face is very dependant on the existence of a good and patent airway for proper breathing. Without one, an orthodontic problem can be caused or a poor growth pattern can be magnified. Our office is not concerned only with the health of the teeth in your child, but more importantly, the proper growth and development of your child.