Background: Skeletal maxillary expander (MSE) is one of the more recent expander designs being utilized for skeletal expansion by splitting the midpalatal sutures applying forces through palatal micro-implants. Its effects on the soft tissue remain a question asked by both patients and clinicians. The aim of this study was to analyze and quantify soft tissue facial changes induced by MSE.
Methods: 3D facial images (3dMD) were used to capture face scans of 25 patients generating 3D soft tissue meshes before expansion (T0), right after expansion (T1), and 1 year in retention (T2). MATLAB was then used, utilizing non-rigid iterative closest point algorithm, to align all samples in vertex correspondence and generate averages. Surface mapping of each average, along with its variance, allows for quantification of changes between the three pools of samples in 3D space.
Results: The generated 3D p-maps between T0 and T1 demonstrate that statistically significant changes (p < 0.05 and p < 0.01) are localized in the circummaxillary area (paranasal, lips, and both cheeks). Vector map shows a mean displacement of 1.5 mm in the paranasal area. The right cheek showing a mean displacement magnitude of 2.5 mm while the left cheek has a mean of 2.9 mm. Direction of vectors are latero-anterior with more dominant anterior direction.
Conclusions: There are significant changes in paranasal, upper lip, and at both cheeks following expansion using MSE with greater magnitude at the cheeks area. Those changes do not relapse after 1 year (p < 0.05).
Keywords: 3D analysis; Facial 3D images; Maxillary skeletal expander (MSE); Mini-implants; Miniscrews; Rapid palatal expander; Skeletal expansion; TAD anchorage.