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To Brace or Not to Brace?

Many people think that teen braces are inevitable, but osteopaths have know for years that this is not always the case...

Teeth alignment and osteopathy

Years ago, Osteopathy evolved in its understanding of human anatomy to discover cranial mechanics. And in so, the understanding that crooked teeth are a consequence of a crooked cranium. It has been found that if you can straighten the cranial bones, then the teeth will follow suite! On the other hand, straightening the teeth but not the cranial bones, can lead to head, neck and back aches.

Yes! That's right! The cranium is not, as most of us tend to have assumed, one ball shaped bone. It is in fact comprised of many bony plates that hinge together with ligament tissue, allowing for some flex and expansion.

Visualize this: the bones of the base of the cranium from back to front interlock like the mechanism of the wheels of a clock. When one bone (or one wheel) gets pushed in a certain direction (for example at birth), the other bones (or wheels of the mechanism) follow suite in that same direction. You can imagine that the teeth are the last wheels of this chain as they are set in the maxillar bones. Depending what direction the maxillar bones have been pushed into, the teeth will come out differently.

Now imagine that you turn the last wheel of the clock mechanism opposite the direction of the other wheels, as the braces do with the teeth. The mechanism becomes jammed. In the cranium, when the teeth are realigned with braces, they are no longer in line with the rest of the bones of the cranium. This is why teeth will have a tendency to go back out of alignment after braces come off. And the contradictory positioning of teeth and cranial bones can create great tension in the head. This tension is communicated through the entire spine via a tarp like tissue that protect the brain and spinal cord called the dura.

Osteopathic practitioners can work on cranial tensions to help centre the cranial bones, which in turn helps the teeth, in a growing child and teenager, become more centred. But if braces have been decided upon, then centring the cranial bones to better accompany the teeth alignment will help the orthodontic treatment go faster and cause less side effects. It will also help the teeth stay straight after the braces come off.

Common... Adjust the cranium?!

Yes, it sounds strange but we, osteopathic practitioners, do. And people do feel the bones of their face and sinuses releasing, or headaches they have had their entire life, dissipate during the treatment. The way osteopathic practitioners can feel what is going on with the cranium is the following: cerebra-spinal liquid that the brain floats in is pumped into the cranium ten to twelve times per minute creating and expanse of volume. This forces the bones of the cranium to slightly spread apart and then return. With time and practice, osteopathic practitioners develop the sense of touch sufficiently to feel this movement. They can then work with the tissues to help release the tensions in the dura that maintain the cranial pattern set at birth, or developed with falls and bumps during childhood.

So two things to consider:

  1. Osteopathic care, in some cases, can prevent the need for braces if your child or teenager is still growing.

  2. If you have opted for braces or they are necessary, osteopathic care can help the process go faster, be longer lasting, and have less negative impacts on your child's health and well being.

Orthodontic Resources:

Dr. George Paul Greenacre is an orthodontist with osteopathic training whose approach is sensitive to the cranial mechanics and works in tandem with osteopathy.

Studies and Readings:

Baker26 demonstrated widening of the dental arch of patients receiving OCF. Models of upper teeth over a six-month period showed overall widening of 0.7 mm between molar teeth. It is common in the practice of orthodontics to move the upper molars up to 2 mm by dental appliances. However, in cases reported by Baker, the changes were brought about only by OCF.

Cranial concepts developed by Dr. William Garner Sutherland

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