While braces may be the most traditional way to straighten your smile, there are other devices out there that correct various underlying issues in the mouth, such as those related to alignment. Among these is a tool called the ALF appliance, which stands for Advanced Lightwire Functional. The ALF appliance is a non-traditional orthodontic treatment method that addresses the underlying causes of crooked teeth. It expands the jaw laterally and anteriorly with a natural approach toward growth and development.
What is the ALF Appliance?
The ALF appliance was originated and designed by Dr. Darick Nordstrom in the early 1980s. He wanted to go beyond the simple aesthetic alignment of teeth. Dr. Nordstrom felt he needed to additionally correct the other structures that were attached to the teeth, such as the upper jaw (maxillae) and skull bones.
Dr. Nordstrom felt that a removable appliance that is “light wire” and less bulky would prove superior to other current devices. Rather than with traditional braces, patients treated with the ALF appliance receive a custom-made, removable appliance. This fitted appliance uses wires to reposition the jaw, dental arches, and teeth, and provides continuous light forces to the skull bones and teeth. Instead of applying heavy continuous forces, like with the rapid palatal expander, orthodontic treatment has clinically proven more beneficial with continuous light forces applied to the teeth and skull bones.
Not only does the ALF appliance correct any jaw problems, but it also relieves other symptoms that may seem unrelated. Among those include chronic headaches, neck, shoulder and lower back pains, PMS, fatigue, digestion problems, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, etc. It also aids those who snore or have a lot of nasal congestion as it opens the nasal and oral airways. Because it promotes proper tongue positioning, which encourages good breathing, it can also reduce the risk of sleep apnea.
What Is the Difference Between the ALF Appliance and a Palatal Expander?
As opposed to other similar treatment devices, such as the rapid palatal expander, the ALF appliance does not require a heavy force. Palatal expanders are made with a heavy wire and are tightened using a key to create the expansion. Most often, when this device is used on children, the parents are the ones using the heavy force by turning the key. The ALF appliance eliminates any parental involvement in treatment. Furthermore, it does not interfere with speech or proper tongue positioning as it does not cross the roof of the mouth like the palatal expander does. Thus, the ALF appliance proves much more unobtrusive to patients, making it much easier for them to wear.
A.L.F. at Park Avenue Orthodontics
When Dr. Janet Stoess-Allen, owner of Park Avenue Orthodontics in New York City, learned about the ALF appliance from Dr. Darick Nordstrom himself at an orthodontic conference in California, she immediately realized she would use it in her practice. She had never been comfortable using the heavy forces often associated with most palatal expansion devices. Because of that, the ALF appliance proved to her as a clear, more natural alternative. In fact, Stoess-Allen exclusively uses the ALF appliance at Park Avenue Orthodontics and has for the past fifteen years over any other palatal expansion devices. “It just really rang a bell for me and all of the misconceptions that I had about the old-fashioned palatal expander all of a sudden didn’t matter because I knew that I would never use it again,” Stoess-Allen said.
“For all of the years I have been an orthodontist, I have followed the most naturalistic non-extraction treatment plans for my patients,” explains Stoess-Allen. “The ALF appliance creates a “naturally healthy” foundation of the maxilla for accurate mandibular positioning, enhanced airway space, and a sound bilateral TMJ relationship.”
Who Does Dr. Stoess-Allen Treat with the ALF Appliance?
Dr. Stoess-Allen treats many patients with the ALF appliance. “When indicated, I initiate orthodontic treatment devoted to improving airway space for patients of all ages, starting as young as 4 to 5 years old (facial skeletal structure of this age group reaches 60% of its development and 90% by age 12),” says Stoess-Allen. “This treatment encourages upward and forward tongue posturing which opens the airway for proper breathing, and reduces the potential for snoring and obstructive sleep disorder.”
But Stoess-Allen does not limit her treatment with the ALF appliance to just children. She has found it to be a most effective treatment method for both children and adults. “Because the ALF appliance is virtually unobtrusive for the patient and has many positive benefits,” notes Stoess-Allen, “it is the only expansion device that I will use in my orthodontic practice today. I use it, when indicated, for both children and adults.“
If you would like more information on the ALF appliance, contact us at Park Avenue Orthodontics today!