Bio-Functional Orthodontics

Parents want their children’s dental problems to be treated as soon as they arise. They do not want treatment to be delayed until all the permanent teeth erupt and costs could escalate. Early treatment minimizes the time that children need to wear braces and is the treatment of choice. The ideal time for treatment is any time after the 6 year molars have erupted so that problems such as narrow jaws, a thumb sucking habit, mouth breathing or malformed jaws can be recognized and treated effectively. Since ninety percent of the face is developed by age 12, Dr. Willoughby begins treatment early so that he can help guide the growth of his younger patients. In many instances, these developing dental problems are caused by issues related to a constricted airway. Dr Willoughby routinely performs an airway assessment on ALL his patients in order to identify airway problems which can affect the child’s developing dentition.

If treatment is delayed until all the permanent teeth erupt, this increases the incidence of extractions. It has been Dr. Willoughby’s experience that most children and parents prefer to be treated without the extraction of permanent teeth. Dr. Willoughby recognizes that most children do not like to wear cervical headgear so it is not used in our office.

Many of the above problems can be related to jaw problems. In many cases, the lower jaw is not in the correct position in relation to the upper jaw, which causes muscle spasms with resultant painful symptoms. Dr. Willoughby works closely with other health care professionals including medical doctors, dentists, ear, nose and throat specialists, neurologists, chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists and other members of the medical and dental community, to try and resolve these problems for patients. In most cases, when several practitioners are working together, the results are better for the patient.

For his younger orthodontic patients, Dr. Willoughby prefers Two Phase Treatment.

First, all functional problems including mouth breathing, snoring, jaw joint problems, and habits such as thumb sucking or tongue thrusts, are treated immediately. Any skeletal (bone) problems such as narrow jaws or underdeveloped jaws are also treated with functional appliances. Recessive or underdeveloped chins are consistently moved forward with functional appliances while the patient is still growing. This is more preferable than waiting until all the permanent teeth erupt and surgically moving the lower jaw forward.

Once the arches are developed in Phase One and all the permanent teeth erupt, braces may be utilized to straighten the teeth in Phase Two.

“The combination of these two phases of treatment ensures beautiful faces, full lips and outstanding profiles,” says Dr. Willoughby

Snoring and sleep apnea are two serious health problems today. Snoring irritates the spouse and adversely affects marriages. However, sleep apnea occurs when the patient stops breathing for more than 30 times per night. This lack of oxygen causes problems including increased blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Dr. Willoughby has been very successful in treating these patients with snoring appliances designed to move the lower jaw and tongue forward, which opens up the airway and solves the problem. Dr. Willoughby has been using oral appliances, which move the lower jaw forward for more than 4 years.

If you or your spouse snore and you want more information on the subject, call our office today 604.541.1800 for a consultation appointment.

Dr. Willoughby’s philosophy is to treat patients early with arch development appliances so you can solve many of the problems before the permanent teeth erupt. This approach ensures that the majority of his patients can be treated without the extraction of permanent teeth and non-surgically. His professional life is dedicated to treating patients with a holistic, non-invasive therapeutic approach.

Early interceptive orthodontic treatment usually starts before the eruption of the permanent teeth or when the child has very few permanent teeth present. Our goal at Dr. Willoughby’s office 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 five or six to see if there is a bone problem (orthopedic) or a tooth problem (orthodontic).

If the patient has a problem such as the upper jaw being too narrow, or an underdeveloped lower jaw, this will require a special appliance called a functional jaw orthopedic appliance to correct the problem. Minor tooth crowding can also be corrected early if it appears as though it may compromise the eruption of other permanent teeth.

It is always less expensive to correct a problem when the patient is younger rather than wait for the problem to become more serious in the future.

Other benefits of early treatment:

  • Improves profiles, smiles and self-esteem
  • Corrects harmful habits, such as thumb sucking and tongue thrusting
  • Functional appliances develop the arches and make more room for the tongue
  • Improves speech
  • Reduces the amount of time spent 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

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 and or tonsils, Dr. Willoughby will usually refer to an Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist.

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 that 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 of 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.

Patients with any of the above signs or symptoms are encouraged to call our office for an appointment 604.541.1800