Over the years, dental practitioners have developed a variety of orthodontic appliance systems—both fixed and removable. What makes the Advanced Light-wire Functional (ALF) Appliance so special? Why has it become the center of so much attention?
To answer these questions properly involves much more than just a description of the ALF’s technical features or its use in palatal expansion. The ALF appliance draws on deep biological principles that challenge assumptions about the mechanics of the mouth that have been the basis for orthodontic thinking for over a century.
The ALF appliance was devised by a dentist, Dr. Darick Nordstrom, following years of collaboration with Viola Fryman, an outstanding osteopath. The ALF appliance was originally designed to stimulate and enhance the physiological movement of the head and face. Nordstrom was aware from his osteopathic experience that the cranium—with its numerous plates and bones—continues to move in a rhythmic pattern through life. The teeth, which can move, become like handles delivering forces that are capable of also moving the cranial and facial bones.
Most orthodontic intervention relies solely on a classical Newtonian approach—the common-sense mechanics of everyday life. The ALF, on the other hand, also incorporates a subtle, but profound biological component. The ALF approach acknowledges the body is a non-linear, self-organizing system, with its own agenda—often at odds with conventional mechanics and traditional treatment plans.
The challenge of how to integrate the body’s biological functions into treatment is not just a cause of confusion in orthodontics; it exists throughout the health fields. When you move a tooth, you affect the entire body at some level. The physics of biotensegrity finally reconciles mechanical and biologic systems in a way that enables better short and long-term health results. The possibilities are fascinating, but it requires practitioners to think outside of the box, or in this case, beyond the mouth.