You may have heard the saying 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,' but do you know what it means? It means that if you take care of something today, it won't become a problem to fix later. This theory can apply to a lot of things, including home repair, car maintenance and orthodontics. That's right, we said orthodontics. Particularly, this theory applies to orthodontic treatment and children.
We understand why this may surprise you. For years, the prevailing theory on treating kids with orthodontics was, 'Wait and see what happens when all their adult teeth come in.' The problem with this approach was that, in many cases, waiting and seeing what happened meant a lot of painful pushing and pulling of the teeth with metal braces, headgear, unnecessary extractions and long treatment times. Conventional orthodontics, or traditional braces, also focused on the aesthetics of the smile — i.e., straight teeth — and not the overall health of the smile's foundation: the jaw.
As a result, many patients who went through conventional orthodontic treatment as children are living with painful jaw problems now, with top and bottom teeth that are crowded because they never had sufficient space created in the mouth even after years of orthodontic treatment.
All these situations can be avoided with early intervention before the permanent teeth come in and jaw growth stops.
But, orthodontics has advanced in recent years in its treatment philosophy. Instead of waiting, many orthodontists are seeing the benefits of early intervention and taking steps to treat patients early with Removable Anterior Guided Growth Appliances, also known as RAGGA.
Why Early Intervention With RAGGA Is Best
Our bodies — and our jaws —are designed to grow in very specific ways, which are spelled out in our genes. However, many environmental factors can disrupt that growth plan, which results in malformation of the jaw and impaired facial development. These factors include diet, oral behaviors such as prolonged pacifier use and even pollution. When the jaws do not reach their full growth potential, problems develop.
These problems include breathing issues, difficulty sleeping and eating, impaired physical growth and cognitive development, and a greater risk of developing chronic and potentially life-threatening health conditions.
Treating children early with RAGGA orthodontics does not put the aesthetics (i.e., straight teeth) first. It focuses on achieving optimal jaw size and health, improving facial appearance, opening the airway to ensure proper breathing, and protecting overall health to achieve a beautiful smile.
What Is RAGGA?
RAGGA orthodontic treatment works by using the body's natural response to help reshape the upper jaw, or maxilla, and improve facial growth and facial structure with the help of an oral appliance. These appliances, also known as growth appliances, are increasing in popularity as an alternative to conventional braces. RAGGA is also often referred to as face-forward orthodontics, Controlled Arch Orthodontics or epigenetic orthodontics.
With RAGGA treatment, a small, lightweight growth appliance is made to fit in the upper jaw. The appliance works by stimulating a nerve in the roof of the upper palate, causing the body to respond by developing new bone tissue that expands the upper jaw with forward growth to allow space for incoming adult teeth. It also opens the airway and restores balance to the face. It is removable so that the child can maintain proper oral hygiene and work up to wearing the appliance at all times, even during eating. This teaches the child normal tongue habits and increases nasal breathing.
RAGGA treatment is ideal because instead of forcing change by pulling and pushing teeth, it facilitates the change from within to allow gradual and natural growth. This change can help to improve the facial structure and overall health of your child.
What Can RAGGA Treat?
How do you know if RAGGA or conventional orthodontics are right for your child? RAGGA can help treat a range of oral and overall health symptoms, including:
- Bite alignment concerns, such as crossbites, overbites and underbites
- Breathing problems, such as mouth breathing and chronic congestion
- Sleep breathing disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
- Jaw problems, such as TMJD/TMD
- Headaches or migraines
- An underdeveloped or 'weak' chin or other problems with facial development
- A sunken appearance in the midface area around the nose and mouth
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Poor oral rest posture
- Bite Alignment
In many cases, bite alignment issues are caused by misaligned jaws, crowded teeth and simply not enough room in the mouth for the adult teeth and tongue. AGGA treatment helps the jaw expand, making proper bite alignment possible.
When the jaw expands, so does the upper airway, which allows breathing to switch from the mouth to the nose. Nasal breathing yields greater immediate and long-term health benefits for the body and also improves performance and cognition.
Sleep Breathing Disorders
In many cases, underdeveloped jaws or jaws that are set too far back contribute to sleep breathing disorders such as OSA. This is because, along with the jaw, the tongue is also set too far back and can block the airway when the body relaxes during sleep. Sleep apnea in children can cause symptoms such as daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating, bedwetting, nightmares or night terrors, behavioral disorders, and cognitive problems. AGGA appliances expand the upper airway to its fullest potential, allowing more oxygen into the body and improving overall health.
When the jaw is out of balance, and the upper and lower teeth do not fit together as intended, it puts stress and strain on the jaw joints, which, over time, can cause significant and painful damage.
Headaches and Migraines
When the jaws are out of balance, the stress on the jaw joints can contribute to the development of headaches or migraines. In most cases, these headaches develop around the temples. This is because when the jaws are not balanced, the muscles, nerves and connective tissues around the jaw joints are pushed and pulled and become tense. The facial muscles are also strained, which can cause pain.
If the lower jaw is underdeveloped, the chin will appear weak and set back, giving the face an unbalanced appearance. By promoting forward growth of the upper jaw, AGGA treatment brings balance back to the face.
When the upper jaw does not correctly form, the area around the nose and upper mouth can appear sunken. AGGA-facilitated forward growth can help fill out the midface region. This benefit is often appealing to adults, too, (no, it's never too old for orthodontic treatment!) and can offer a 'non-surgical face-lift' effect!
Many children living with undersized jaws struggle with eating and chewing. They also often have food aversions because their jaws are misaligned and their front and back teeth do not come together correctly.
Poor oral rest posture
Signs of poor oral rest posture include gum issues, such as 'gummy' smiles and red or swollen gums; tongue thrusting; tooth grinding; and speech impediments. AGGA treatment can help expand the jaw to allow for proper tongue positioning, a proper lip seal and improved gum health.
Are you interested in RAGGA therapy for your child? Learn more about how RAGGA can give your child a happy smile with straight teeth and a healthier life by calling Legends Dental at (254) 799-9540 to schedule an initial consultation.