Pediatric Orthodontics: Why Might Your Child Need Plastic Blocks In Their Mouth?

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Children are often referred to an orthodontist when their pediatric dentist notes an overcrowded jaw. This simply means that the length of the mandibular (lower) jaw and/or maxillary jaw is inadequate for the adult teeth that have erupted. Although the jaw can accommodate the number of teeth, the lack of space results in misalignment as the teeth slightly pivot in their dental sockets—leading to crooked teeth. This in turn creates malocclusion, which is an improper connection between the upper and lower dental arches when the mouth is closed. How might an orthodontist solve this particular issue?

Palate Expansion

Although braces or another orthodontic appliance (such as transparent aligners, also known as invisible braces) are still likely to be required to properly straighten the teeth, your child may need to have their palate expanded. This might sound rather intense, and while some forms of palatal expansion require jaw surgery, this is only in extreme cases. When a child's orthodontic condition could be assisted by some extra length in their dental arches, a device known as the twin-blocks appliance can be utilized. This does not involve surgery. But how does it work?

A Horizontal Overlap

Typically, dental malocclusion is more pronounced in the maxillary jaw. It will begin to protrude outwards, above its mandibular counterpart. This can create a horizontal overlap between the upper and lower dental arches. A twin-blocks appliance encourages the mandibular to develop at a faster rate, eliminating this overlap and relieving overcrowding. The system is simply four small acrylic blocks attached to the upper and lower dental arches via orthodontic wires. It's removable, however, it must be worn in line with the orthodontist's instructions. Your child might be advised to only remove the blocks when eating.

Bones That Are Still Growing

When the jaw is closed, the two blocks in the maxillary jaw naturally rest against the edges of the blocks in the mandibular jaw beneath it, which are closer to the entrance of the mouth. This prevents any overlap and gently coaxes the mandibular into growing faster. When the mouth is closed, it closes with the mandibular jaw slightly forward. Twin-appliance blocks are only effective in younger patients whose bones are still growing. As the bone growth cells known as osteoblasts accumulate calcium and create collagen fibers that eventually form bones, the twin-blocks appliance acts as a type of growth guide. The mandibular jaw is essentially being tricked into growing to a length that helps to correct the patient's malocclusion.

The twin-blocks appliance can be a deceptively simple orthodontic tool but can deliver tangible results far quicker than braces would have by themselves.