Functional Appliances are used mainly in growing children to help solve the problem of narrow upper and lower jaws, which could cause crowding of the permanent teeth and restriction of the airway. When the narrow upper and lower jaws are developed to normal shape and size with functional appliances, in the majority of cases it is not necessary to extract permanent teeth and can help with airway development.
Early interceptive orthodontic treatment usually starts before the eruption of the permanent teeth or when the child has very few permanent teeth present. Dr. Planer's goal is to guide the growth of the upper and/or lower jaw to make adequate space for the eruption of all the permanent teeth. We feel that children should be evaluated by the age of four to see if there is a bone problem (orthopedic) or a tooth problem (orthodontic).
Most children with crowded teeth and bad bites have narrow jaws and underdeveloped lower jaws, which could be corrected with functional appliances. Functional appliances help correct the bone problems, while the tooth problems are corrected with the orthodontic braces.
The ideal age for the use of functional appliances is between ages seven and eleven, when the cooperation level is the highest. However, functional appliances can be utilized as early as age 4, if the upper jaw is too narrow and is having a negative effect on the child's breathing and speech. Arch Development (functional appliances) can also be used in adults to develop the arch to a more normal shape and size before applying the braces.
The use of functional appliances can reduce the time the child must wear fixed braces and also can reduce the need for the extraction of permanent teeth. Functional appliances develop the dental arches so that all the permanent teeth can erupt, which ensures an outstanding profile, broad smile and healthy jaw joints.
Other Benefits Of Early Treatment
- Improve profiles, smiles and self-esteem
- Correct harmful habits, such as thumb sucking and tongue thrusting. Functional appliances develop the arches and make more room for the tongue
- Improved speech
- Reduction of the time in fixed braces and frequently eliminates the need for the extraction of permanent teeth
- Increases nasal breathing which improves health
- Eliminates airway constriction
- Creates beautiful broad smiles by developing the arches
- Eliminates grinding of the teeth at night
- Prevents headaches and earaches
Functional habits include thumb sucking, mouth breathing or a tongue thrust habit which can contribute to the unfavorable growth of the jaws. Oral habits can commonly cause the upper front teeth to stick out and can contribute to speech problems. The best way to intercept a habit is to first make certain that the child has a proper size airway and can breath through the nose. In cases where there are serious allergies, swollen adenoids or tonsils, a referral to an Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist must be done.
After airway considerations are addressed an upper fixed habit- breaking appliance could be made to stop the oral habit. Most parents prefer the fixed appliances, which cannot be removed by the child. A tiny patient friendly crib at the front of the appliance helps to remind the patient not to place their tongue, finger, or thumb in this area of the mouth. Active treatment usually takes 4 to 5 months. Then if an arch development appliance was used, the crib could be removed, and the child wears the appliance as a retainer for another 6 months to prevent a relapse.