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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Ideal Dental Facial Growth: Dental orthotropics can be an effective treatment, according to Dr. Lisa Butler

Aug 05, 2014 09:45AM ● By Dr. Lisa M. Butler

Dental orthotropics is a treatment that encourages ideal dental facial growth. It was developed by Dr. John Mew in London, England in the 1950s. What does ideal facial growth mean? Look at the faces of people that society finds attractive. They share similar qualities; wide smile, full cheeks, visible or prominent chin and a face that is not long-looking or excessively flat. Crooked teeth and bad bites are a symptom of unfavorable dentofacial growth caused by poor oral posture: the way the tongue, teeth and lips are held at rest. Because breathing through the mouth rather than the nose is frequently the cause of poor oral posture, we search for the cause of mouth breathing and work to change the pattern to nose breathing.

Here are symptoms to look for in a child that would indicate unfavorable growth. Open mouth posture or lips hanging open. Mouth breathing rather than nose breathing. Snoring. Allergic shiners under the eyes (dark shadow below lower lid). History of ear infections/tubes in ears. Thumb and/or finger sucking. Tongue tie(s). Not enough space for the tongue. Tongue biting.

If a child is experiencing any of these behaviors/conditions they should be evaluated to see if they are a candidate for orthotropic treatment. The best time to initiate orthotropic treatment is ages 7 to 10, because at this age, optimum growth potential can be harnessed and translated into measurable changes in appearance and improvement in overall health.

Dental orthotropic treatment is different from orthodontic treatment because it strives to achieve ideal maxillary and mandibular jaw growth by directing growth horizontally with removable retainers. Generally it involves two phases of six to 12 months of active treatment. The retainers are worn 24/7, but are removed to brush and floss the teeth twice daily.

Many times orthodontic brackets are used to assist in moving teeth, but the goal is not straight teeth, which are often the result of orthotropic treatment—overall health and proper growth is the true goal. Studies have shown that horizontal facial growth can have a positive impact on overall health by increasing the airway. In contrast, traditional orthodontic treatment often extracts healthy teeth and retracts the remaining teeth in order to make the teeth look straighter. This technique can have a negative effect on the airway and often produces an unfavorable facial appearance as the face flattens and the chin drops, growing vertically.

Another tool that is commonly used with orthotropic treatment is orofacial myofunctional therapy. Habits and postural changes can be accomplished with specific exercises. Think of it as physical therapy for the facial muscles, lips and tongue.

Lisa M. Butler, DMD, owns Integrative Dental Associates, in Phoenix. Learn more about biologic dentistry and her services at 602-956-4807 or


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