Dentofacial orthopedics is a specialized form of dental care for children and adolescents. The purpose of dentofacial orthopedics is to help guide the growth and development of the face. As you may know, orthopedics is a term that is commonly used to refer to a doctor who specializes in bone health. If you have ever broken a bone, you likely met with an orthopedist. Let’s break down the term “dentofacial orthopedics” so it is clearer. The term “dentofacial” refers specifically to matters of the teeth and the face. The word “orthopedics” has to do with bone health. Therefore, a professional who practices dentofacial orthopedics provides specialized services in matters of the growth and development of the bones in the face as they relate to dental issues.
Why Dentofacial Orthopedics Is Used Primarily in Young People
Dentofacial orthopedics is a common form of treatment for both young people and adults. However, dentofacial orthopedic treatment is usually more tolerable for younger patients. In children and adolescents, the purpose of dentofacial orthopedics is to help guide the growth of the bones. This is easier in children and adolescents because their bones have not yet finished growing.
Adult patients also benefit from dentofacial orthopedic treatment. However, it is important to note that the bones in the face of an adult have finished growing. This is why adults undergoing dentofacial orthopedics will often require surgery during their treatment. This is because it is much more difficult to adjust the bite and move the teeth to the right places in adults.
The Phases of Dentofacial Orthopedics
Dentofacial orthopedic treatment occurs in phases with children and adolescents. However, before any work is done, your child will first be examined by a dental professional. This professional will assess your child’s bite and teeth to determine if your child will benefit from dentofacial orthopedics.
Dentofacial orthopedics usually occurs in two phases. The first phase happens if your child has not lost all of their baby teeth. Phase I typically begins when a child is 7-8 years old. Treatment for Phase I focuses on guiding the proper growth of the bones in either jaw. Doing so helps shorten the length of treatment during phase II.
Phase II treatment in dentofacial orthopedics involves the traditional use of braces. Braces are used to align and straighten the teeth. There is a large variety of braces that patients may chose from during this phase of treatment.
Common Conditions Treated with Dentofacial Orthopedics
Dentofacial orthopedics is used as a corrective method for misaligned bites. The scientific term for it is “malocclusion”. Simply put, it means that the bite of the patient is misaligned in some form. The degree of this misalignment ranges from minor to severe.
Patients with an overbite – a malocclusion – stand to benefit greatly from dentofacial orthopedics. An overbite is when the upper jaw is longer than the lower jaw. An overbite often tends to result in the overcrowding of teeth. Dentofacial orthopedic appliances are used to correct overbites. Treatment generally lasts between 6-12 months, provided it commences while the patient is between 8-10 years of age. Overbites usually do not cause much of a problem. However, there are some cases where the overbite is more severe. The most common accompanying issue with a severe overbite is a speech impediment. Unfortunately, children often become victims of bullying and teasing at school because of severe malocclusions.
Another malocclusion is an underbite. This occurs when the lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw. Left untreated, it can develop into TMJ disorders. The misalignment causes increased friction. Therefore, your child’s tooth enamel wears down faster. As with overbites, treatment lasts between 6-12 months provided the patient is 8-10 years old.
A crossbite occurs when one jaw is narrower than the other. A crossbite can be either unilateral or bilateral. Furthermore, depending on which jaw is the narrower, your child could have an anterior or a posterior crossbite. Left untreated, a crossbite can lead to gum disease and tooth loss. Moreover, because a crossbite creates an uneven bite, your child’s face could develop asymmetrically. In spite of the serious consequences associated with untreated crossbites, the matter can interestingly take as little as 30 days to treat.
Is Dentofacial Orthopedic Treatment Painful?
Ultimately, the severity of the oral condition is what determines the extent of pain and discomfort a patient might expect. However, most patients report that the discomfort is mild. Often, an over-the counter anti-inflammatory medication tends to suffice. Other patients report feeling more pressure in certain parts of their jaw or mouth while they are wearing the prescribed facial appliances. Conversely, certain other dentofacial orthopedic treatments are virtually painless.
If you or your child undergo dentofacial orthopedic treatment, speak with your dental health provider. They will tell you what to expect and how to manage pain or discomfort.
Better Self-Esteem and Better Dental Health
Several people tend to seek dentofacial orthopedic treatment for cosmetic purposes. While that is not our primary focus, patients report that treatment helped increase self-esteem and boost confidence. When misaligned bites go untreated, they may develop into lifelong issues. Some of these are tooth decay, enamel loss, gum disease, tooth loss, TMJ, and recurrent headaches. Moreover, individuals uncomfortable with their appearances may suffer from low self-esteem. Children with dental problems often face bullying at the hands of their peers. Dentofacial orthopedics corrects dental health problems whilst bolstering patients’ self-esteem. Investing in dentofacial orthopedic treatment promotes the future health of patients.
To learn more about dentofacial orthopedics, contact Orthodontists Associates of Western New York for a free screening.
Our reputation as a leader in orthodontic care is based on one thing… Making a Healthy and Beautiful Smile