Avoiding Orthodontic Disasters Part I

An Introduction to Early Orthodontic/Orthopedic Treatment

Many young patients (age 3-8) that I meet are brought to my attention by a concerned parent who has intuitively seen something about teeth and jaws going wrong or growing wrong.  Parent intuition is often quite good, and I am happy to say that there is usually something that can be done to help.  This was not always the case.

About thirty-four years ago, a little four year old girl with a protruding lower jaw taught me about the psychological impact of her appearance.  She was ok to have X-rays and tooth impressions taken, no problem.  When we took out the camera to take photos she began to cry.  Her mother explained  she knew what pictures were and she was very sensitive to her picture being taken.  A well meaning aunt had recently said, “she doesn’t look that bad.”

Since that time I have been a proponent of early dentofacial orthopaedics.  This is partly due to my background in physical anthropology (human growth and development), partly due to my search for the ideal time to treat incorrectly growing jaws and partly due to my desire to nip avoidable psychological problems in the bud.

Here are three examples of developmental issues that you can look for:

1) Upper jaw too small or too far back / lower jaw too far forward.

2) Upper jaw too far forward / lower jaw too far back.

3) Upper jaw too narrow / lower jaw over to the side.

As the incorrect jaw growth continues, the discrepancy between upper and lower jaws will increase, and at the same time the jaws will become less malleable.  Therefore the problem becomes more difficult to treat.   If recognized and treated early enough, the negative consequences may be completely eliminated.

This is the SAME GIRL!

What Consequences?

1)  Psychological research regarding facial attractiveness demonstrates several disadvantages a child with these issues can face.

2)  There can be a negative impact on the development of the jaw joint.

3) The discrepancy between jaw structures gets worse with continued incorrect growth.

In the next article, I will address those consequences individually, but for now let me leave you with this:  When a child is young these issues can be fixed with simple, noninvasive, nonsurgical dentofacial orthopedics – why would you wait? – Dr. Vic Schacher Certified Specialist in Orthodontics

This article continues, read Part II.