The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the morphological changes of the palatal vault in AOB growing subjects after two different early orthodontic treatments (RME/BB and QH/C) compared with an untreated AOB CG by using GMM.
In literature, the maxillary morphology of pre-treatment open bite subjects has been widely described. Several studies revealed the presence of a significantly narrower maxillary arch in these patients when compared with a control group.14;31–33 However, they used bidimensional analysis on dental casts as inter-canine and inter-molar widths, providing incomplete information about the tridimensional morphology of the palatal vault.34,35
Recently, GMM was proposed as a new method of comprehensive shape evaluation that can communicate even complex morphological changes much more effectively than coefficients that result from traditional morphometric analysis.15
GMM shows shape changes not only in preselected areas (i.e., molars and canine transverse distance, palatal height, palatal depth), but virtually in any point of the surface where homologous landmarks and semilandmarks were positioned.36
Using the means of GMM, Krey KF. et al.37 observed that patients with skeletal AOB present a short mandibular ramus due to growth deficit. In addition, significant differences were found in terms of maxillary vertical development in AOB subjects when compared with untreated AOB subjects. However, the authors focused on adult patients excluding growing ones, while our study included pre-pubertal subjects.
Freudenthaler J. et al.38 used GMM to evaluate the role of craniofacial complex in different malocclusions in a sample of patients from 7 to 39 years, showing that AOB subjects have the maxilla tilted upwards while the mandible downwards.
In 2019, Laganà G. et al.18 analysed the morphological palatal vault shapes’ changes in growing AOB subjects, with or without referred prolonged sucking habits, compared with a control group with good occlusion through the means of GMM. They found that AOB subjects showed a significant constriction of the maxillary arch when compared with the CG and that the morphological palatal shape variations in AOB subjects were not influenced by the presence or absence of non-nutritive sucking habits.
However, the mentioned studies described the palatal morphological characteristic of the AOB subjects and they did not observe the morphological changes occurring in these patients after orthodontic treatment.
Recently, one study8 evaluated the morphometric changes in AOB growing subjects after two different orthodontic treatment (RME/BB or QH/C) compared with an untreated AOB control group, by using conventional cephalometry and GMM. The authors analysed only the effects of these treatments on the mandible. They found that that RME/BB subjects showed significant changes in the vertical orientation of the mandibular ramus with a tendency for the mandible to rotate counterclockwise when compared with QH/C subjects and CG, resulting in a divergence reduction of the mandibular and occlusal planes. In contrast, the QH/C protocol did not affect the mandibular morphology8.
To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to study the morphometric changes of the palatal vault in AOB growing subjects after two different early therapeutic protocols (RME/BB and QH/C) compared with an untreated AOB CG by using GMM.
According to Laganà et al.18, our study group was composed by AOB subjects without distinguishing the dentoalveolar or skeletal etiological nature of the malocclusion.
The initial AOBG was divided into two subgroups according to the treatment strategy adopted: subjects with skeletal OB were treated by RME/BB, subjects with dentoalveolar AOB were treated by QH/C. Then a CG, that matched the AOBG for chronologic age, malocclusion and skeletal maturation, was collected.
As suggested by Paoloni et al.29, the palatal vault, analysed through the means of GMM, was assessed up to the gingival margin in order to eliminate the influence of dental inclination and position on the alveolar bone.
This investigation showed that RME/BBg when compared with QH/Cg at T2 had no statistically significant differences. This result may be explained because every treatment strategy, chosen for each patient, was the proper one to correct the AOB malocclusion. Therefore, a correct occlusion was obtained because the etiological factor was removed.
The results of this study showed that at the end of active therapy (T2) the RME/BBg presented a palatal vault more expanded and less deep than the CG.
These findings agree partially with the ones present in literature on patients with maxillary constriction39–43 and confirm that RME significantly increases transversal dimensions of the palatal vault.
However, to our knowledge, no study associated the RME to a decrease in the palatal depth. On the contrary, Bruder C. et al.,43 demonstrated that maxillary constricted patients treated by RME have no vertical alteration of the palate. This result is in contrast with the one of our study. The difference is in the treatment protocol. Our AOB patients were treated with RME and BB that controlled the vertical dimension reducing the extrusion of maxillary and mandibular molars and applying an intrusive force on the teeth and consequently on the bones.13
When comparing QH/Cg vs CG, the GMM analysis showed significant differences in the morphometric shape of the palatal vaults. QH/Cg was slightly expanded than CG ones, while there were no variations in maxillary depth. The entity of the transverse expansion was inferior to the one obtained by RME/BB therapy. This result agrees with several studies26,44−46 that demonstrated the transversal variation obtained by the use of the quad-helix in growing patients.
Mucedero M. et al.9 showed also that the QH/C protocol produced a clinically significant downward rotation of the palatal plane evaluated on the lateral cephalometric radiographs. Meanwhile, our study showed no 3D morphological variation in vertical and sagittal direction of the palatal vault in QH/Cg vs CG because the QH/C induced a bodily downward rotation of the maxilla with no evidence in the GMM.