Biomechanical rationale for surgical-orthodontic expansion of the adult maxilla

V Shetty, J M Caridad, A A Caputo, S J Chaconas
Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery 1994, 52 (7): 742-9; discussion 750-1

OBJECTIVE: To develop a biomechanical rationale for surgical-orthodontic correction of transverse maxillary deficiencies in adults by clarifying the internal stress responses to rapid palatal expansion in a photoelastic model.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A three-dimensional photoelastic analog of an adult human skull was constructed by fabricating the individual facial bones from a photoelastic material and fixing them along their anatomic sutural areas. After determining the force-activation characteristics of a Hyrax expansion appliance in a straining frame, the appliance was applied to the analog and incrementally activated. The stresses developing at the different craniofacial areas were visualized and photographed in the field of a circular polariscope. Sequential cuts were performed to simulate midpalatal, zygomatic buttress, and pterygomaxillary osteotomies, and the alterations in the internal stress responses were recorded after each individual cut.

RESULTS: The force-activation characteristics of the Hyrax appliance are in the orthopedic range (500 g). The magnitude and distribution of the stresses induced by appliance activation differed notably between the simulated osteotomies. Analysis of fringe patterns showed that the midpalatal and pterygomaxillary articulations were the primary anatomic sites of resistance to expansion forces. The patterns of distribution and the increase in the magnitude of the stresses at superior sutural location were particularly pronounced after the pterygomaxillary cuts. The forces produced by the Hyrax appliance had deep anatomic effects, with internal stresses also manifesting at regions distant from the site of force application.

CONCLUSIONS: Based on photoelastic observation, it may be concluded that complete midpalatal and pterygomaxillary osteotomies are essential for predictable skeletal expansion in adults. Exclusive use of bilateral zygomatic buttress osteotomies appears to be inadequate. The expansion forces exerted by the Hyrax appliance are orthopedic in nature and produce deep anatomic effects. Clinicians should be aware that the craniofacial stresses produced by appliance activation may be experienced by the patient as pain or discomfort.

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