Orthodontics for children with facial clefts and facial asymmetry is a unique sub-specialty involving the use of functional orthodontics. Functional orthodontics is a specialized form of orthodontics that can help to correct not only the position of the teeth, but also the position and function of the jaws. This type of orthodontics is particularly important for children with facial clefting and facial asymmetry because it can help to prevent or lessen some of the more common irregular jaw relationships that may develop.
Functional orthodontics is, in essence, a way of tricking the teeth and jaws to grow and develop in a more normal manner. Functional orthodontics can create space for teeth and jaws to grow by using various types of appliances, retainers, and dental adjustments. In children with clefts of the maxillary alveolus and palate, functional therapy can help to correctly position the cleft segments as well as to increase the width of the upper jaw.
Typically, functional orthodontics cannot be performed until the permanent molars have erupted (around 6 years of age). It is important for children to be evaluated by an orthodontist with experience in treating children with facial clefts so that intervention can be made at the appropriate time. If intervention is delayed, certain opportunities may be lost.