Arch Development

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Arch development, or expansion, is used in conjunction with orthodontic treatment in order to create the necessary space to accommodate straight teeth

A significant percentage of patients with crooked teeth have underdeveloped dental arches. This condition of underdeveloped dental arches is the result of many possible factors, including: genetics, thumb sucking, over use of a pacifier, too soft of a diet, baby bottle rather than nursing, mouth breather, enlarged tonsils and adenoids, allergies, etc.

Proper airflow through a youngster’s nostrils is essential for the proper growth and development of the dental arches. If airflow through the nose is reduced then dental arch development is retarded. Underdevelopment of the dental arches also causes underdevelopment/uneven development of the mid-face (eyes, ears, cheeks and nose).

If a patient is diagnosed with an underdeveloped dental arch then we will recommend arch development. The subject of arch development is a controversial one. Many dentists and orthodontists believe that arch development in a non-growing patient is impossible, or at the very least, unstable. The reason they believe that is because that is what they were taught in dental school. Dr. Brad was taught the same thing but following dental school his orthodontic mentors taught him a new paradigm. He has now been successfully developing dental arches in children, teens and adults for over 20 years. We’re not talking about “rapid palatal expansion” (RPE) but rather “arch development” that is slow and steady and 100% pain free and comfortable.

We use a number of different arch development appliances in our practice, including the DNA, Meridian, sagittal, and Schwarz. These are all removable appliances that are comfortable, convenient and much less expensive than the alternative of jaw surgery.

If you feel you may be in need of arch development, we invite you to give us a call (714-838-0760) for a free consultation or second opinion to determine if arch development is right for you.

Commonly asked questions in regards to orthodontics and arch development:

Not at all. Arch development occurs gradually and is 100% comfortable.

That depends on how much arch development is needed and how diligent the patient is wearing the appliance as prescribed but most patients fall into the 6-12 month timeframe.

It will not damage the teeth and absolutely will not move them off the dental arch. We are NOT MOVING TEETH at all, we are developing bone. As the bone develops the teeth will naturally go along for the ride because they are imbedded in bone but the appliance is not moving teeth it is enlarging the dental arch.

We typically see our arch development patients every six weeks for a quick five-minute visit.

The most significant difference is the time between appliance adjustments. Typically with RPE the patient will turn an adjustment screw on the appliance once a day until the desired expansion occurs. With arch development we recommend turning the adjustment screw once every 3-5 days. Turning the screw less frequently allows the body to form new bone along the palatal suture where arch development occurs. Turning the screw too often will fracture the suture and cause scaring which is both painful and causes unstable expansion.

Most arch development appliances must be worn 24/7 except when eating or brushing. The newer DNA appliance that was developed with the adult patient in mind can be worn 12-17 hrs./day with outstanding results.

Most of the appliances look much like a typical orthodontic retainer. They are low profile and very comfortable to wear.

Probably. You will more than likely notice facial changes while using an arch development appliance. An unevenly developed face (eyes, ears, nose, and cheeks) will look more even. A flattened mid-face will become fuller. A smile will become broader, eliminating dark triangles in the corner of a patient’s smile. The upper lip may become fuller. A “gummy smile” will improve. Eyes, ears and lips will become more level, etc. We expect changes to the face because when facial bones are underdeveloped facial appearance is generally compromised.

Once arches are developed sufficiently to allow for teeth to be properly aligned we move into the second phase of treatment to straighten teeth.