Sunday, July 6, 2014

Alternatives to Conventional Braces

This post is the third in a series about alternatives to conventional orthodontics. 
image from

Okay, so my 7-year-old daughter needs orthodontics for her crowded teeth, and we're not using conventional braces because I want her to have more than just straight teeth. I want to actually encourage her dental arches to grow so that her teeth have plenty of space.

Orthodontic Appliances That Encourage Jaw Growth

I have learned of several different orthodontic options that can encourage the dental arches to grow, rather than just straightening the teeth. Because these options cause the bones to grow to accommodate the teeth, there is not a risk of orthodontic relapse like there is with braces. All of these appliances have the additional advantage that they can be used by children as young as 5 years old.

Lightwire Appliances

Image courtesy of AAGO
These include the original lightwire appliance, called Crozat, which was developed in the 1920's, as well as more recently-developed appliances such as Advanced Lightwire Functionals (ALF) and Kernott Universal.  All of these lightwire appliances are made with a flexible, thin-diameter wire that is formed into a removable appliance.  These appliances combine function (chewing, swallowing, etc) along with light forces on the teeth, both of which encourage the dental arches to grow.

The lightwire appliances have the advantage that they are not very obvious when being worn, and may even go completely unnoticed by others. One disadvantage of the lightwire appliances is that the wire can sometimes become damaged during insertion or removal.

A good website for finding practitioners that use lightwire appliances is the American Academy of Gnathologic Orthopedics. ALF practitioners can be found on the ALF Orthodontics Website.

Image courtesy of AAGO

Plastic Myofunctional Appliances

image from
Plastic appliances that encourage dental arch growth include the original OrthoTain (developed in the 1960's) as well as the MyoBrace. Just as with the lightwire appliances, the plastic myofunctional appliances work through correcting the function (chewing, swallowing, etc) along with light forces on the teeth that encourage dental arch growth.  Plastic myofunctional appliances are typically worn at night as well as for several hours during the day.

Plastic myofunctional appliances have the advantage that they are not custom-made for each patient; rather they are preformed in specific sizes. They do not have the potential for damage like the lightwire appliances do.  One disadvantage of plastic myofunctional appliances is that they are bulkier than lightwire appliances, so they are more obvious when being worn.

I have not been able to find a good website that provides a directory of dentists/orthodontists that use plastic myofunctional appliances.  However, my daughter's dentist, who I found through the American Academy of Gnathologic Orthopedics site, does use plastic myofunctional appliances as well as lightwire, so that site might be a good place to start.
image from
image from











What's Next?

In my final post of this series, I will detail our experiences in finding a suitable dentist, our experiences thus far with using an orthodontic appliance, and some pictures of the results we have experienced.

Other Articles in This Series

My 7-Year-Old Needs Orthodontics! EEK! 
Why We're NOT Using Conventional Braces
Alternatives to Conventional Braces  
Selecting an Orthodontist or Dentist, and Our Rapid Results  
My Daughter's Orthodontics - One Year Update 
My Daughter's Orthodontics - Three Year Update

Do you have any experience with non-conventional orthodontic options? 


Rebecca said...

I had no idea there were other options instead of regular braces! That's exciting. Can they be used on adults as well?

Mom Thompson said...

Not sure if I commented on here about this or not. Be sure your child has enough digestive enzymes to process nutrients. I have a son that had 0 while eating my same diet and I had 12(normal). When I supplemented his jaw grew incredibly. The Functional Medicine doctor did a double take when he noticed the son's mouth had grown. You can find out if the pancreas is spitting out enough enzymes by a stool test. My daughter is using what they call a bite plate (retainer) to move a couple of her teeth.

Anonymous said...

My son had an appliance put in his mouth when he was 5 or 6 years old. Don't remember which type specifically since that was 20 years ago. He only needed to wear it for a few months and his jaw had made adequate room for all his incoming teeth. He has a beautiful smile now with perfectly straight teeth and a very symmetrically shaped face. My neighbor's son (same age as my son) was also recommended by the same pediatric dentist to have an appliance put in for the same problem. His mother thought it was a money grab on the part of the dentist. Turns out he had to have braces for many years in his teen years. The appliance proved to be much cheaper and of very short duration compared to braces. Absolutely worth doing this approach rather than braces if the situation calls for it.

Billy said...

I've had braces when I was in middle school Kinda sucked but hey it made my teeth better. The problem was I had a hard time in school. People called me names like metal mouth lol! I also can't eat things that I like. So yeah, I endured almost 2years of it but hey, It was all worth it. My teeth are okay now.

Anonymous said...

Thousands of dollars later and both of my kids who needed braces, Sarah's husband and her sister in law's teeth are no longer straight. Why? Because they did not continue wearing a retainer at night after they became adults. Orthodontists now permanently fix retainers in for this reason. Now I have this grand daughter as well as my daughter's daughter using this alternative. The older who is 10 is wearing an expander that she has to turn each night. She is finishing up The Sound of Music this weekend and the only time she takes out the expander was during rehearsals and now the shows. The expander does not bother her although it is a bit harder to talk until you get used to it. As a matter of fact if she doesn't turn it, her mouth will hurt so she really doesn't need reminding.

Sarah Smith said...

Yes, but the point is that braces do not encourage the jaw to grow to accommodate the teeth. People shouldn't have to wear a retainer for life! With these alternatives, the actual bone structure will change so that they won't need to wear retainers for life.

Jay and Brooke said...

Hi, I was wondering if you have any updates on your daughter's progress with the Ortho-Tain. We are considering this for 3 of our children, but it's a lot of money to spend, and not a whole lot of information available on it (besides from the product website). Thanks! ~Brooke

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Brooke,
As of now, my daughter has been using the Ortho-Tain for 9 months. In that time, we have seen substantial growth in her palate, especially in the upper palate. Before we started, she had absolutely no space between her baby teeth. In the meantime, she has lost her two front teeth, and the adult teeth are larger. Nonetheless, she now has space between her adult teeth!

Her dentist credits her with doing the work to make it happen, as she has been very cooperative in wearing her appliance all night every night. The younger the child is, the easier the process with the Ortho-Tain, as starting young means they can wear it only at night (whereas my niece who is 12 wears hers at night as well as 4 hours during the day). My daughter is now on her second appliance, as she outgrew the first one after about 6 months.

After posting the last in the my orthodontic series (which was the article by Brian Hockel), I talked to our dentist about Hockel's assertions that appliances like the Ortho-Tain actually cause the jaw to recede further. Our dentist (who is most excellent and very well-informed) has actually been trained on the appliance Brian recommends, so he was able to really dig into this issue with me. He said that, in his long experience, it has just not shown to be true that the one-piece appliances like the Ortho-Tain cause the jaw to recede. He showed me pictures of many patients who used the Ortho-Tain (including side views), and it was clear that their development looked great. He also said the appliance Hockel recommends has a much higher failure rate (which Hockel himself acknowledges) because it is much more cumbersome to use. All of this assured me that the Ortho-Tain is the right appliance for us right now.

I hope this helps, and please let me know if you have any further questions. I think I may do a blog post to show my daughter's progress thus far, as you are likely not the only one wondering how things have progressed.


Anonymous said...

Sarah, do you know where I can find photos of how child's teeth should look like? I have two dentists in the area who do ALF, one recommends it strongly for my son, the second says he looks fine now and that his jaw will sufficienly grow to accommodate this teeth. I don't know who to believe :(

Sarah Smith said...

While it doesn't focus on children specifically, Weston Price's book "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" shows clearly what dental arches should look like compared to how they often do look in our "modern" society.

I also think that trusting your own instincts is valuable. How old is your child, and is there any space between the baby teeth? Has he already started losing baby teeth, and if so, is there sufficient space for the adult teeth? With my children, I have a very good example for comparison with my son. My daughter's baby teeth never had any space at all; I kept waiting for her jaw to grow with her excellent diet, but it never changed. My son, on the other hand, has a very well-formed dental arch and space between every single baby tooth. So I could see very easily by looking at them side-by-side that my daughter's jaw and dental arch were very small and narrow.

Rachel Romaine said...

Mom Thompson, would you be so kind as to let us know what company did the stool test and how many samples were taken? Also, can you remember what part of the test showed that the pancreas was not producing enough enzymes? How did you remedy this - what kind of enzymes and how often? Did your child eventually produce enough of his own, and if so, how? Or does he continue to take the enzymes?

Rachel Romaine said...

Mom Thompson, would you be so kind as to let us know what company did the stool test and how many samples were taken? Also, can you remember what part of the test showed that the pancreas was not producing enough enzymes? How did you remedy this - what kind of enzymes and how often? Did your child eventually produce enough of his own, and if so, how? Or does he continue to take the enzymes?

Anonymous said...

Also check out Myo-Munchie at and .Deciding to get braces was the worse decision I had ever made in my life. I had Damon braces at few years ago and my experience was a complete disaster. It made everything so much worse. It took away my bite and shoved my dental arch back toward my throat giving me a feeling of choking especially when I would lay down. I was so sleepy all the time after getting the braces and I didn't realize it until just recently that the braces obstructed my airway giving me sleep apnea .I had always thought that sleep apnea only happened to overweight people and my weight is appropriate for my height. My health steadily declined since braces and I had to give up my job of 21 yr. The braces caved in my face giving me an appearance of an old woman without teeth. It is claimed that Damon braces don't collapse the face but I had m a couple of missing teeth and the staff used a lot of force when did the X cross wiring. Which is what I believe gave me severe gum recession that I didn't have before. Periodontist wants $10000 to improve the gum recession and I will probably be continuing to pay for appliance treatments for the rest of my life .

Hannah Lebo said...

Sarah, would tou be willing to give us a more recent update on your daughter's progress with the OrthoTain? I really like what I have seen regarding OrthoTain, but my holistic dentist works with ALF, so I am trying to find comparisons regarding the mechanics of each (and cost). Thank you!

Sarah Smith said...

Things are still progressing fine with her Ortho-Tain. My daughter is still using the Ortho-Tain nightly and we are still seeing good results. I think she will likely be moving up in size on her appliance soon, but we were waiting to see how large her outer incisors are (they've just about finished coming in now).