By Brian Prudent, DMD, MyoTech Integrative Health Center
In this month’s issue we will talk about the ALF appliance. Advanced Lightwire Functionals (ALF) is a very light, flexible wire that fits behind the teeth and stimulates proper tongue function. ALF also describes the goals of the treatment: Airway management, Lingual posture control, Facial growth guidance.
Crooked teeth are the result of the imbalance of forces between the tongue pressing out and the cheeks and lips pressing in. When your mouth is open during mouth breathing, the tongue is on the floor of your mouth allowing the force of the lips and cheeks to crowd the teeth together. Mouth breathing also causes forward head posture, which is like holding an eight- pound bowling ball in front of you. Over time, this poor posture will lead to neck and back problems.
The cranium, which has 22 bones, develops strain patterns and facial asymmetries caused by the misalignment of these bones. This misalignment of the cranium and spine can lead to hip problems, carpal tunnel, pinched nerves, herniated disks, and knee and feet issues, just to name a few. With nasal breathing, the tongue should be on the roof of the mouth placing a force behind the teeth and creating support for the maxilla and proper alignment of the cranium and teeth. This improves facial symmetry and body posture as the head is then centered over the body. We also have found that after therapy, many people do not need retainers because the tongue is functioning properly and keeping the teeth correctly aligned. Hence, proper form follows proper function.
This appliance works best in children between the ages of four to six. Approximately 60 percent of facial development occurs by the age of six. In many cases, ALF treatment at this age will eliminate the need for braces. So, it is very important to start proper breathing and tongue habits early. In many cases tongue ties and thumb habits need to be addressed with myofunctional therapy (tongue and swallowing exercises) and clipping of the tissue constricting the tongue or lip. Many newborns that have tongue and lip ties are unable to breastfeed, which decreases the opportunity for proper facial development. Tongue and lip ties can also create improper swallowing. This improper swallow causes more air to get into the stomach, causing gastric reflux and colicky symptoms. When mothers have difficulty breastfeeding due to ties, they may be forced to use formula, which can cause allergies, only adding to their baby’s discomfort.
ALF also works for adolescents and adults. However, as one gets older, the bad habits have created more long-term effects. As a result, it takes longer to correct the facial and oral imbalances. With this group, it is not uncommon to need braces or clear trays to perfect alignment of the teeth. This is not done until after the main development of the face and mouth is complete. We also use ALF as a tool for correcting sleep breathing disorders and pain that occurs from Temporomandibular Disorder (TMJ as many people call it).
My family and I have personally benefited from this treatment, and it has changed my life tremendously. I sleep well at night and can breathe much better through my nose. The benefits of nasal breathing will be discussed in a future article.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact MyoTech Integrative Health Center at 309-764-0008. Located at 1828 Avenue of the Cities, Moline. Visit us at www.myotechdental.com.