Growth Modification

growth modification

When is the best time to begin orthodontic treatment?

Though we can straighten teeth at any age, there is an optimal time to begin jaw growth modification. Growth modification is best completed when the patient is still growing.

We can take advantage of a child’s growing years by guiding proper jawbone formation using orthodontic appliances. This treatment can prevent malocclusions (bad bites) from forming or correct existing ones. Once the patient is an adult, surgery may be necessary to correct significant jaw misalignments.

The ideal time to start growth modification treatment varies from patient to patient. It is based on the stage of growth of the jaws and whether the jawbones align in an underbite or an overbite.

What are the advantages of interceptive growth modification treatment?

  • Creates optimal facial symmetry
  • Fixes crowded teeth without tooth extractions
  • Corrects a crossbite
  • Corrects  an openbite
  • Corrects an overbite
  • Corrects an underbite

When growth modification is utilized, a severe problem that would require surgery to fix at a later date can be fixed in a non-invasive and gentle way.

By utilizing growth modification, we can increase the self-esteem and confidence of a child since his or her teeth and jawbones align better! This goes a long way in the junior high school years with our patients.

What orthodontic appliances are used during growth modification?

To give you properly functioning and aligned jaws and correctly aligned teeth, we use appliances such as, but not limited to:

Reverse-Pull Headgear

Often referred to as reverse-pull headgear, the protraction face mask is a removable appliance for patients when the upper jaw is not growing fast enough, resulting in a crossbite or underbite. The device consists of a metal bar attached to pads on the forehead and chin with rubber bands hooked to the facemask and upper braces or a palatal expander to gradually move the upper jaw forward.

Patient compliance is extremely important because the facemask must be worn a set number of hours per day to obtain the desired results. The facemask device is generally worn for about 12 months.

Palatal Expander

Attached to the upper molars through bonding or by cemented bands, the palatal expander is an orthodontic device used to create a wider upper jaw. It is typically used when the upper jaw is too narrow for the lower jaw or when the upper teeth are crowded or blocked out of the dental arch.

When patients are still growing, their connective tissue between the left and right halves of their upper jaw is very responsive to expansion. By simply activating the expander by turning a screw in the center with a special key we provide, gradual outward pressure is placed on the left and right halves of the upper jaw.

This pressure causes an increased amount of bone to grow between the right and left halves of the jaw, which ultimately results in an increased upper jawbone width.


Crossbow Appliance:

The crossbow (x-bow) appliance is a fixed appliance typically used for the correction of a large overjet. A large overjet is colloquially called an “overbite”. You may have a large overjet due to an upper jaw/teeth that are positioned more forward or a lower jaw/teeth that are positioned too far back. The crossbow appliance can help up address a large overjet, especially when used during the growth spurt (typically at 11-12 years for girls and 12-15 years for boys). It has two components (one for the upper jaw and one for the lower jaw), and can be used concurrently with upper braces. When used appropriately, this appliance can even help us avoid future jaw surgery for some patients!