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Kids Orthodontics

Interceptive Ortho for Jaw Development and Sleep Apnea

When your child comes in for an appointment at Madison Family Dental, we look at lots of different things — including how their teeth and jaw are developing. We offer interceptive orthodontics for our young patients.

This type of orthodontia focuses on jaw development as opposed to just teeth alignment. By taking advantage of your child’s growth period, we can position the jaw properly early on and make it easier to straighten teeth in the long run.

We can start as early as the age of five. This process, usually involving an in-mouth appliance that is turned to create expansion, works best when kids are younger because their jaw bone is easier to move around. It can often be completed in six months to a year.

There are more benefits to expanding the jaw than just making room for straight permanent teeth — interceptive ortho can also help with sleep apnea.

Many young children with narrow jaws experience breathing problems during sleep because they don’t have enough room to properly position their tongue. Expanding the jaw can open up their airway and also improve speech and overall health.

Watch Dr. Alanna Wirtz and Dr. Christine Julian-Hoernke talk more about our pediatric orthodontic services and their benefits below.

Read transcript

One of the things that people might not be aware of is that when you’re coming into the dentist at a regular appointment, we’re always looking for lots of different things. And one of the things we look at is how your child’s teeth and jaw are growing and developing. We’re now offering orthodontic services. We’re doing more “interceptive ortho”, which is when we aren’t’ necessarily doing brackets and wires to straighten teeth, but we’re actually looking at helping the jaw to develop in a growing child and taking advantage of that growth period in their lives.

We can start as early as the age of about five years old up until even adults, although it’s easier when kids are younger because their bone is more easy to move around to where we need it. Usually what we start with, depending on exactly what they need, are appliances we put in their mouth. A lot of times if we need more expansion you just turn the appliance a couple times a week. It’s usually a fairly quick process — within six months to maybe a year we’ll get enough growth where their teeth will have more room once their permanent teeth start coming in. We’re really looking more at the jaw at this age than the actual teeth. Once they get all of their permanent teeth in that’s when we start trying to get their teeth in the correct position, but as long as we have enough room for that it’s a lot easier at that point.

In addition, besides just trying to get enough room for the permanent teeth, there are other benefits to expanding the jaw for children. One would be to allow more room particularly for their tongue position, and that allows their airway to open up. If a child is really narrow, they actually will position their tongue in a forward position versus on the roof of their mouth as it should be. If we’re able to expand that jaw it allows their tongue to go to the roof of their mouth, and there’s a lot of benefit to that besides just being able to sleep better, it even helps with things like their speech, and long-term it’s beneficial for them.

We know if you have a narrower airway that can also lead to other other problems, a lot of times in kids you don’t think about apnea but that’s becoming more and more common and more and more looked at these days.

Ear, nose, and throat doctors and pediatricians are all realizing that good sleep is really important for growth and development in kids, and we all want kids to be able to do their best I think.

Some of the things that people look for, signs and symptoms would be sort of an allergic shiner, a black and blue area under the eyes, irritability, hyperactivity, sometimes bedwetting can go along with that as well, difficulty in concentration, and you know with kids its hard to sort through what’s going on all the time, but if we know there is a constriction in the airway or we know that orthodontically something is going on, that’s a good place to start. We are reaching out and working more with the pediatricians in the area, more with the sleep doctors in the area, and more with the orthodontists too so it’s more of a multi-disciplinary approach.

Please request an appointment online for a dental treatment consultation with one of our dental professionals.




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