While orthodontics focuses on the straightening of the teeth, facial orthopaedics involves jaw alignment and facial development. Achieving harmonious facial proportions and a good, functional bite not only looks good, but is also important for proper function and prevention of future dental and jaw problems. It is the process of regulating the growth of the face and jaws using appliances such as headgear and expanders.
In children, whose bones are still forming and have not yet completely hardened, facial orthopaedics can correct poorly developing jaw and facial proportions. Functional appliances are worn which exert pressure on the developing facial bones and encourage proper growth and development of these structures. In many cases, early treatment with functional appliances can largely eliminate the need for later jaw surgery or tooth extractions. It is important to assess the growth of a child at an early age to ensure the proper development of the face and jaws and address any dental or facial abnormalities as soon as possible.
Facial orthopaedics to correct a poor bite or jaw development in children is usually referred to as Phase 1 treatment. This takes place before the adult teeth erupt. Phase 2 treatment usually takes place at a later stage, when the permanent teeth have erupted and involves the use of braces to simply straighten the teeth.
In adults, when growth has stopped and the bone is less responsive to external forces, functional appliances are no longer useful. Poorly aligned jaws and facial structures in adults can generally only be corrected with surgery to realign the jaw bone. Surgery of the jaws is combined with orthodontic treatment such as braces to straighten the teeth and achieve an optimal result.