Orthodontist comes to Copper Country – ‘More than straight teeth!’
HOUGHTON — Darin Ward, DDS, MSD will open U.P.Ward Orthodontics, a full-time orthodontist office in Houghton in January 2021, and he is excited to offer his service to the people of the Copper Country as there hasn’t been a full time orthodontist in the area in over 10 years.
Ward’s decision to move his family to the U.P. stemmed from health issues his wife and father in-law have. His wife is from the U.P. and they fell in love with the natural beauty of the Houghton and the surrounding area on their initial visit to the area in early 2020.
Dr. Ward knows firsthand that prevention is key to good oral health. While growing up, Ward had myriad problems with tooth decay and crooked teeth, despite his family regularly visiting a dentist. It was not until well into adulthood that Ward, as a practicing dentist, figured out the cause of his problems.
“I got into the dentistry thing on the receiving end,” Ward said, explaining that hindsight is 20/20. “I was a mouth breather since I was a baby, and that, along with eating refined foods and less-than-ideal oral hygiene had everything to do with the decay that was on my teeth.
“Mouth breathing dried out my teeth and gums, made me more susceptible to tooth decay, and affected how my jaws grew, which is why I needed all this invasive dentistry and orthodontics as a child and young adult. I had fillings and stainless-steel crowns on all my back baby teeth, fillings all my permanent teeth, multiple root canals, eventually had crowns on 19 of my teeth and I had orthodontics three times, including headgear.
“I was pretty much put through the ‘dental ringer’ before the age of 25. Nobody ever told my parents about the adverse effects of mouth breathing but somehow my grandma knew, and I remember her tilling my sister and I to ‘sit up straight and shut your mouth!.’ Knowing what I know now, I want to help people have a better experience than I had so people won’t have to go through all that time and expense.”
While studying Biology at San Diego State University, he befriended a dentist, Dr. Paul Brent, who properly fixed his teeth and encouraged him to pursue dentistry as a career. Ward went on to study dentistry at Baylor College of Dentistry, in Dallas. He practiced general dentistry in Eugene, Oregon, for eight years before one of his young patients inspired him to become a specialist in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.
In 2001 Ward became very interested in orthodontics and facial development when he referred a 2 ½ year old patient with a severe crossbite to the orthodontist who said he could not help a toddler that age.
“The parents were concerned that their child had a lower jaw that was biting over 5mm to one side and still wasn’t speaking at 2 ½ years old,” Ward said. “The orthodontist I referred him to said he couldn’t do anything because he was too young, so I made an expansion appliance that improved his upper jaw size and corrected his cross-bite in less than three months and he also started speaking as soon as the appliance was removed.”
Ward says that most orthodontists see tooth crowding as a “teeth are too big” problem with solutions that include extraction of healthy teeth to make room. In contrast, Ward sees tooth crowding as a “mouths are too small problem” and prefers to make room in the mouth to fit all the teeth! This involves catching “small jaw problems” early in little kids, to make room for the larger permanent teeth that are to come later.
In addition to a 27-month orthodontic residency at University of Colorado where he earned his specialty certificate and masters in orthodontics, Ward studied how improper rest oral posture and mouth breathing adversely affects the growth of the face, jaw position and tooth alignment. Since 2001 he’s studied with many mentors in and out of the field of orthodontics who are all committed to advancing an approach to orthodontics that corrects proper facial balance instead of traditional extractive and retractive techniques. By working with these mentors, Ward learned how poor resting oral posture causes crooked teeth, grinding, snoring and breathing problems, as well as bedwetting and other issues–things he dealt with as a child.
Which brings us to preventative orthodontics, he said.
Prevention is not taught in orthodontic residencies. We are taught that jaw problems and crooked teeth are primarily caused by genetics and except for extreme situations, that it’s best to wait for all the teeth to come in before starting orthodontic treatment. The problem with this approach is that by that time the jaws have finished growing.
“We’re teaching prevention,” he explained. “Basically, how can you avoid or at least minimize all this orthodontic stuff? Why is everybody getting ‘ortho,’ and it’s not just because everybody wants to have a nice smile, and it looks pretty.”
The reason, he said, as young children, people develop habits, such as breathing through their mouths, poor diet, even how people hold their jaws — influence the face grows.
“This was not taught in orthodontics school,” he said. “This is all stuff I learned before orthodontics school, and afterward, outside of the institution.
“Sitting up straight, Breathing through your nose, chewing with your lips together, and closing your mouth are simple habits that are hard to develop- but they aren’t easy. It’s about doing the ‘hard right’ rather than the ‘easy wrong.'”
Ward uses minimally invasive appliances to widen the making room for the permanent teeth. In addition, he helps his patients to develop proper breathing habits and proper rest oral posture of the lips, tongue and jaw to maximize growth and ensure a stable result. For teens and adults whose facial growth is complete, Ward also uses temporary devices such as braces and clear aligners to help develop the dental arches avoiding surgery and extractions.
Ward believes that “The smile is so much more than we see on the outside. When someone feels good about their smile it builds self-confidence, promotes a positive self-image, and it is a vital form of human expression that has a positive impact on every aspect of life for a person.”
In establishing his practice in the Copper Country, Ward said it, like everything in life, is all about balance. Establishing his family in an area they love and growing a practice that will serve the needs of the people, are his goals, he said.
“I want to make sure we do the right things for people,” he said. “I want to make sure that I grow a sustainable practice that serves the community in which we live, work and play, and at the same time, make sure that it’s affordable for people, and we can bend over backwards to help people to fit the care they need in their schedule and budget.”
Ward takes his time to know “the human beings attached to the teeth and their parents.”
He says “It is my mission to help children maximize their genetic potential, affecting growth and development through an airway focused postural approach to orthodontics that addresses the root cause of improper jaw growth and crowding of teeth. This is preventive care preparing for health/wellness rather than merely treating disease and involves ‘an ounce of prevention rather than a pound of cure.’ I love the opportunity to work with children at any age and recommend seeing an orthodontist as early as possible, in order to achieve maximum benefit and prevent future problems.
He believes in a holistic approach to orthodontics and I’m passionate about airway-focused orthodontics because healthy breathing is the gateway to one’s overall health. This includes rest oral postural training, breathing training, non-extraction/non-retraction orthodontic treatment, and Orthotropic facial growth guidance.
“My why is to serve with positive enthusiasm. I do this by inspiring people to achieve their goals and be the best version of themselves,” Ward said. “I want to continue to be a leader for my family, my team, my patients, and the community I serve helping folks to: Be Here Now – Love what is, because now is the time to smile.”
He looks forward to getting involved with the community, collaborating and working with local groups, and supporting local organizations in the local area.
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