Advanced Lightwire Functionals (ALF)

ALF (Advanced Lightwire Functionals) is a method of orthodontic treatment that addresses posture (how the patient stands) using principles of cranial osteopathy. It advances the mandible and brings about changes in muscle function to achieve stable results. ALF treatment does not use traditional braces; instead the patient is fitted with a custom-made, removable appliance that uses wires to reposition jaws, dental arches, and teeth. Advantages of ALF appliances are:

Cosmetic—ALF appliances are barely visible from the outside
Gentle—there is far less discomfort than with braces
Convenient—ALF appliances allow easier flossing and more thorough brushing of the teeth than conventional braces do
Wellness-enhancing—overall health improves through promotion of proper facial development, opening of the airway, and improved posture
Time-saving—treatment visits are typically necessary only every 6 to 8 weeks

What Is Cranial Osteopathy?

Cranial osteopathy is a gentle, hands-on practice involving the manipulation of the cranial bones, the fascial coverings, the cerebrospinal fluid, and the central nervous system to treat specific dysfunctions, achieve realignment, and improve a patient’s overall health. Central to the understanding of osteopathic medicine is the principle that structure and function within the body are reciprocally related. In other words, proper structure will lead to healthy overall function, and vice-versa.

Why Choose ALF Treatment?

If straight teeth were only about looking good, then orthodontic treatment would only be done for cosmetic enhancement. But treatment with an ALF appliance is about much more. Because ALF treatment works with the bodys innate movement, when Dr. Darick Nordstrom designed the ALF appliance in the early 1980s, he soon realized that his patients experienced relief from seemingly unrelated symptoms, such as:

  • Ear problems (ringing or humming sounds in the ears, decreased hearing ability)
  • Vision problems (blurred vision, strained eyesight)
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Allergies caused by restricted nasal airways
  • Neck and back pain resulting from misaligned vertebrae and nerve impingement
  • Developmental delays such as childhood learning problems due to decreased blood flow to the brain
  • TMJ (jaw joint) dysfunction with pain and restrictions of movement
  • Clenching and grinding of teeth
  • Digestive problems
  • Fatigue
  • PMS

ALF treatment can lead to significant improvement in a patient’s overall health, and is consistent with Dr. Woodlief’s belief in and commitment to a whole-patient treatment approach.

At What Age Can Patients Benefit from ALF Treatment?

Patients frequently ask how old they should be to benefit from ALF treatment.

  • ALF can benefit patients at nearly every age, because it affects overall health
  • Children may begin treatment as young as age 5
  • Typical treatment of children begins between ages 6 and 8, while the four permanent front teeth are growing in

It is important to remember that by age 4, 60% of the facial growth is complete; by age 6; 80% of the facial growth is complete. ALF treatment begun during a growth stage is very effective since it promotes proper growth.

However, older patients can also realize noticeable, effective results! Dr. Woodlief may prescribe ALF treatment for older patients who have:

  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • TMJ disorders
  • Ear problems (ringing or humming sounds in the ears, decreased hearing ability)
  • Vision problems (blurred vision, strained eyesight)
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Allergies caused by restricted nasal airways
  • Sleep issues resulting from snoring and/or sleep apnea
  • Need for tooth alignment, including patients who may have previously been treated through tooth extractions and/or use of headgear

How Long Does ALF Treatment Typically Last? What Kind of Results May I Expect?

In general, treatment time ranges anywhere from 2-3 years and achieves:

  • Correction of existing cranial strains
  • Development of the upper and lower dental arches by expanding them where needed
  • Repositioning of the lower jaw relative to the upper
  • Establishing the correct height of occlusion/bite (an over-closed bite creates muscle spasms and forces the jaw joints out of position)
  • Retention of the new position to allow the bone and teeth to solidify and fully adapt to the new position

Treatment duration and technique vary among patients, according to individual needs. The ALF appliances are worn full time. They are barely visible from the outside, and for most patients, the initial period of adjustment to the appliance usually lasts only two to three days. During this period of adjustment, a patient’s tongue must reposition. This may affect speech a little bit in the beginning. Reading aloud to oneself is a good way to adapt.

Special attention must be given to oral hygiene, since food will get caught between the wire and your teeth. It is mandatory that patients brush their teeth after each meal and minimize snacks, particularly sweet ones. Flossing between most teeth will still be possible. Use of an oral irrigator makes home care much easier and is highly recommended.

Why Would I Need an ALF Appliance?

ALF treatment works with the bodys innate movement. In osteopathic terms, this is known as craniosacral motion. The bones of the head are not rigidly fused together; in individuals of good health there is a minute, rhythmical movement between the bones. However, several causes can lock the bones and impair this movement:

  • Trauma during birth, particularly if forceps are used
  • Injuries/accidents involving the head, e.g. whiplash
  • Tooth loss without adequate replacement, or severe tooth abrasion due to grinding or clenching
  • Dental treatment (extraction of wisdom teeth, or tooth replacement), or orthodontic treatment which leaves the jaws in an unfavorable position

When craniosacral motion is impaired, a distortion (cranial strain) occurs and can cause compromised function, pain, and excess wear and tear in the area. The effects are similar to those of a sprained ankle. Due to the pain, the body tries to protect the injured part and comes up with compensatory mechanisms: for example, overusing other muscle groups to guard the injury. Over time, this can create new problems.