The practice of orthodontics has traditionally focused on the more tangible structures of the mouth and throat (teeth, jaw, etc.), but modern research has been showing more and more the benefits of working with the soft tissues of not just the mouth and throat, but also the face. By addressing discrepancies with a patient’s soft tissues, orthodontists can provide more effective, long-term results with their treatment plans in general.
The Link Between Soft Tissues and Dental Issues
One of the biggest reasons for treating soft tissues is because they can be directly affected by ongoing dental and orthodontic problems. This is especially evident when the soft tissues of the face are affected (by various issues, including loss of teeth, poor jaw and/or tooth alignment, etc.). Basically, a patient’s facial structure can actually appear different and often prematurely aged. Furthermore, soft tissues do also exist to provide support to the harder structures of the mouth, face and throat, and when the proper support does not exist, dental and orthodontic issues can be exacerbated.
Soft Tissue Treatment Options
Specific treatment plans will naturally vary from patient to patient and will depend on both the orthodontist and the specific issue(s) at hand, but generally speaking, many orthodontists have found that using neurmodulators and soft tissue fillers are highly effective. Now, neurmodulators like Botox, Xeomin and Dysport and soft tissue fillers like Radiesse have been historically known only for their use in cosmetic (plastic surgery) procedures. However, their ability to improve soft tissue support and elasticity has caused them to enter the world of orthodontics.
Take, for example, a patient with receding gums that cause visible gaps between teeth. Instead of opting for invasive surgery or prolonged, less-effective treatment methods, their orthodontist chooses a soft tissue filler to help expand the gum tissue and fill in the unsightly gaps. Another example is a patient with poor tooth alignment that, after years of going untreated, has caused the skin around their mouth to appear sunken and wrinkled. While the alignment issue itself should certainly be corrected, their orthodontist can give the patient near-immediate results by using a neuromodulator to help restore their skin to its original appearance.
The Bottom Line
It is understandable that many orthodontists may be reluctant to incorporate soft tissue treatments into their care plans, but they should recognize that this is a constantly changing field where new research and discoveries are constantly coming into play.