Orthotropics originated as an alternative to conventional (contemporary) orthodontic therapy, aiming to be preventative, non-extraction, and non-surgical, dealing with improving the growth of the face and jaws. There was concern that conventional orthodontic practice used mechanical approaches, to correct a biological problem and that, at times, this could retract both upper and lowers jaws, leading to a downswing in facial form. Also it was felt that moving the teeth was treating the symptoms of the problems and no focusing on the causes. Orthotropics was developed an a biological approach, based on identifying and then trying to influence the causes of the problem. The primary goal of orthotropics is to improve facial form and the position teeth are considered less important.
Malocclusion refers to a misalignment between the upper and lower teeth, and jaws (i.e. the way these teeth fit together when biting or chewing). Elements of this condition can be described with terms such as; crowded, crooked, protruding teeth, an “irregular bite”, “crossbite”, “overbite” or “overjet”. The facial complex is responsible for such functions as eating, swallowing, speaking, aerating the inner ear, filtering incoming air and maintaining an airway. Abnormal development of the face affects all of these functions, causes poorly aligned teeth, and impairs appearance. Over 30% of children in the U.K. experience malocclusion that is adequately serious to warrant treatment, and thousands require surgery every year. If a significant element of the cause is due to the environment then there is scope to affect this. As such intervention at an early age can prevent malocclusion. Our research is aimed at simple public health measures which could eliminate or minimize malocclusion and the associated problems.
The research at the LSFH has identified three main causes of facial change:
The facial form of children who have week jaw muscles, and hang their mouths open with a low tongue posture lengthens, downswings. People who suck their teeth inwards every time that they swallow slowley narrow their dental arches. These negatively affect facial and dental development, and this is the primary research area at the LSFO.
The orthotropic method aims to provide space for all teeth, including the wisdom teeth, by improving muscle tone, correcting facial posture and swallowing training. These are the main factors causing the problems, and as such the treatment is be aimed at affecting them. A unique element is the use of training braces that touch the skin in the mouth reminding the wearer not to hang their jaw (mandible) down. This creates a simple feedback loop, which changes habits. The goal is to convert vertical growth into horizontal growth, to gain an upswing in facial growth (or form) in order to increase the cross sectional area, which provides 1) space for the teeth to align naturally, 2) a huge increase in tongue space. If it is possible to double the tongue space this will allow a more natural conversion to an adult swallowing pattern to take place. Myofunctional Therapy (Oral Myology), exercises that correct muscle function and swallowing, are so much easier to do and remember to do, if the environment if excellent. The treatment is about changing people, improving oral posture and function, as well as body posture and function. A lesson learnt can be a lesson learn forever, so not only are the effects dramatic they tend to be permanent. There is no need for “railway track” braces, extractions, headgear, surgery or retainers. This is not to be confused with functional treatment, and is in no way similar to a Twin blocks, Herbst or Damon appliance.
Contemporary Orthodontic therapy aims to push the teeth into alignment through the use of mechanical forces, sometimes with surgery in extreme cases. To provide adequate space to align the teeth it is possible to extract teeth, pull them back or expand the dental arches. Some growth modification can occur, with various types of functional appliances, but this is limited. At the end of treatment, results need to be held in place indefinitely with retainers. Concerns have been raised about the damage inflicted on the facial complex (e.g. narrowing of the airway, impairing facial appearance) by such techniques. Orthodontics often causes damage to the roots and enamel of teeth. In Orthodontic theory there is little understanding of the etiology (cause), epidemiology, pathology or cure. There are almost too many different treatment approaches, many appearing to be the polar opposites.
Orthotropics aims to understand and affect the causes and not the symptoms, and fully understand the process behind how teeth become crooked. The Orthotropic process is about helping the individual to gain the improvements themselves, the focus is on gaining improvements in facial form rather than perfecting dental alignment.
A well-developed face is a functioning, healthy, and appealing face. Orthotropics improves the general function of the face as well as appearance. The treatment resolves problems related to breathing, swallowing, sleep apnea and irregular teeth. There is also evidence to suggest that improving the health and shape of the face reduces jaw joint problems, upper neck and back problems, speech problems, and most ENT problems, such as sinusitis, glue ear and middle ear infections. Children and adults with healthy, functioning faces enjoy lifelong benefits, including all those that come with a confident, beautiful smile.