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Early Treatment for Malocclusion


Topic Overview

Growth modification (early treatment) is part of the first phase of two-stage orthodontic treatment of children with malocclusion (poor bite). Growth modification is only possible when bones are still growing. It is most effective during children's growth spurts.

Orthodontists use growth modification devices (appliances) to change the position, shape, length, or width of the jawbone(s). Some common devices are:

  • Headgear, an appliance that uses pressure to guide teeth and jaw growth.
  • Herbst, an appliance attached to the upper and lower molars that corrects overbites caused by a small lower jaw.
  • Bionator, a removable appliance that guides teeth and jaw growth.
  • Palatal expansion, an appliance that corrects crossbite by widening the upper jaw.

What to think about

Ideal timing of treatment varies depending on the condition, when adult teeth come in, and the amount of growth necessary to correct the malocclusion. Many children who begin growth modification in second or third grade are finished with orthodontic treatment before they begin high school.

Children are often more cooperative than teenagers when it comes to wearing their appliances for a certain number of hours a day. And they don't seem to mind closer parental supervision as much as teens do. However, the parent and the health professional must also beware of "burning out" the child on treatment before the second stage of treatment-braces-begins.

Because the jaw continues to grow during childhood and adolescence, growth modification doesn't always last. Some teens and adults keep their new jaw structure and size, while others have short-lived improvement. However, relapse can also occur after treatment with braces alone.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerWilliam F. Hohlt, DDS - Orthodontics
Last RevisedJanuary 11, 2011

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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