Sun, 14 Dec 2003

Orthotropics guiding a face to youthful beauty

The human tongue touches the roof of the mouth on average about 2,000 times per day as part of the swallowing reflex. If for some reason, the tongue does not press the roof of the mouth at all or presses on some other area, such as the front teeth, it may influence how a child's face grows.

This is one of the explanations given for children developing narrow jaws which cause overcrowded teeth; how tongue and jaw muscles develop has an influence on the shape of the face and jaw.

Other habits developed from birth, such as thumb sucking, are known to create anomalies in the mouth and teeth. Some orthodontists and cosmetic surgeons claim that if you correct these anomalies early you can create a beautiful face over time without surgery or orthodontic braces.

"Why is it that when babies are born they are all beautiful but as they grow some are more beautiful than others. Genetics counts for only about 30 percent, the rest is environment -- and we can influence that," said Dr. Hilly Gayatri.

Orthotropics, also known as facial orthopedics, uses appliances inserted into the mouth to guide the tongue and the mouth into a certain position.

"This hasn't been popular in the U.S. as they prefer to wait until a child is older and use braces or operate," said Dr Hilly.

"In Europe and Russia it has been more developed. At one time the Russian approach was purely orthopedic and focused on growth development. The appliances made it difficult to eat and people had to change habits for a while but it created the most beautiful faces."

Not all orthodontists believe that altering the growth of the jaws from childhood is desirable, preferring instead to use the tried and tested method of fixed braces.

"We don't do orthopedics, that is a different field that involves surgery," said Dr. Suryadharma, while acknowledging that it can work in certain cases.

Advocates of orthotropics argue that delaying orthodontic treatment until a child is 11 or 12 years old misses a valuable opportunity to correct bad growth early on and avoid having to pull teeth.

-- David Kennedy