While the look of traditional braces hasn’t changed much in decades, many other aspects of orthodontics have changed. The development of new technology and methods has provided patients with more aesthetic options, quicker treatment times, better analysis and patient experience.
Although many technologies have been introduced in an attempt to make treatment quicker and better, it appears that the most important factor in getting the job done well and efficiently is the clinician who provides the treatment. Numerous peer-reviewed studies stress this fact and this is why patients should choose a registered Specialist Orthodontist to provide their treatment.
Advances in Early Treatment Stages
The analysis and planning stages of orthodontic treatment have improved with orthodontists having access to more reliable information today.
In years gone by, orthodontists had to take manual impressions of patients’ teeth. With scanning technology available now, digital impressions are used. The impressions are available almost instantly on a computer rather than waiting for the manual impressions to cure. Also, the scanners can take three-dimensional images of the entire skull, jaw, and bone that hold teeth in place. This gives orthodontists a much better view so that a more accurate diagnosis can be made. The patient has a much clearer view of their mouth and jaw and how the treatment will assist.
All this information is now available with even less radiation than a patient would have received during a full series of dental x-rays taken years ago.
Visualising the Final Outcome Before Treatment Begins
Years ago prospective patients had to try to visualise what their smile will look like when they finished treatment. Now orthodontists can use 3D planning software to create a model so the patient can get an idea of what they can expect from treatment. These technologies really assist the patient in their decision making and give patients peace of mind that they’re making the right decision to proceed with treatment and the result will be worth it in the end.
Advances in Aesthetic Orthodontic Options
Most patients can choose a more aesthetic option than traditional braces, but for some patients with complex treatment requirements, traditional braces remain their best option.
While Invisalign has been available for some years, they continue to influence orthodontics. They aren’t suitable for all orthodontic patients, complex cases still need braces. But Invisalign are an alternative for people who want an almost invisible method of moving teeth into the desired position. The most recent research still reports the significant shortcomings of Invisalign for some types of tooth movement. Your orthodontists will be able to advise you after a consultation.
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In some patients, it is possible to use Invisalign for a significant part of the treatment and place fixed clear braces for a part of treatment finalise the positions of the teeth to achieve the best possible outcome.
Being able to remove Invisalign to eat and brush their teeth means patients don’t need to change their diet or the way they brush and floss.
For patients wanting to improve their smile without the look of traditional braces, lingual braces are an option. The brackets are adhered to the back of the teeth so the braces are less obvious. Unlike traditional braces, the brackets of lingual braces must be individually made to fit the contour of the teeth backs so scanning technology is used to manufacture the brackets.
Due to the extra technology and custom manufacture of lingual braces, they are more expensive than traditional braces but a good option for people who are conscious of the look of metal braces. Many adults have taken up the option of lingual braces who may not have had braces if this aesthetic option wasn’t available to them.
For patients who don’t like the look of traditional metal braces, they may prefer ceramic braces. Also known as clear braces, they work the same as metal braces with a bracket and wire applying pressure to guide teeth into position. The clear or tooth coloured braces are more discreet and difficult to detect on a patient from a distance. Ceramic braces are more expensive than metal braces and are slightly less durable than metal braces so a patient may experience more breakages.
Advances During Active Treatment Stages
Orthodontics have more options available during the active treatment phase to achieve a quicker outcome.
Temporary Anchorage Devices (TAD)
Sometimes braces need a little help moving teeth into position. A TAD is a surgical grade mini screw or implant placed in the gum. The TAD device may be used to pull or push off, or may be used to stabilise anchor teeth when braces alone aren’t enough or when the anchor teeth are not sound enough to rely on. The screws also stop unwanted movement of the anchor teeth, usually the molars.
In earlier years, patients were required to wear external headgear appliances or teeth needed to be extracted to create space to align and move teeth. TAD devices are often used to reduce the times that orthodontists have to extract teeth and may eliminate the reliance on headgear appliances.
Inserting the screw only requires a topical and local anaesthesia on the gum. The TAD is removed once teeth are in the desired position and the gum usually heals quickly.
Years ago stainless steel wires were attached to the braces’ brackets to move teeth into position. Many patients remember the pain associated with these heavy steel wires. Modern wires may exert anywhere from 5-20% of the force previously applied to the teeth in years gone by. Although stainless wires are used for specific purposes, many low force nickel or titanium alloy wires are now used universally making treatment more efficient with less discomfort. This means fewer adjustment appointments are required.
Some parents of today’s patients complain that their teeth shifted months or years after they finished treatment. While they had retainers after braces, many didn’t wear them long enough to maintain the new position of their teeth.
Orthodontists today know that the only way to guarantee teeth won’t move after braces is to hold them in place with a fixed retainer. Many patients opt for a fixed wire applied at the back of their teeth on the day their braces are removed. It’s an insurance policy on the long-term success of their treatment.
If you have any queries about orthodontic treatment for yourself or your child, don’t hesitate to contact our clinic for advice.