Sometimes patients joke about the future where machines or robots might straighten teeth using some program. Fortunately there is still a fair bit of art in the science of orthodontics.
Certainly at this point in time we don't have the capability to genetically engineer the elimination of crooked teeth and we don’t have the technology to straighten teeth without the hands of orthodontists and dentists.
Technology though pervades nearly every area and orthodontics is no exception. For decades brackets and wires have been improving in a never ending progression. Modern braces are a far cry from the early examples of bands and wires tied to the teeth with ligatures.
When it comes to brackets, while there are arguments about which bracket is “the best”, in general I think it is fair to say that brackets have become much smaller. The resins (glues) that bind them to the teeth are much stronger and so the comfort and functionality of modern braces is quite superior to in the past. Wires have also improved greatly. Especially the early alignment wires are super flexible and have a long range of action and this has helped to enable appointment times to move out from the traditional four week visits towards eight to twelve weeks.
In some cases it is possible to treat patients who are quite distant because they only need to come every ten to twelve weeks. Typically though visits are more like six to eight weeks apart these days.
One of the most interesting areas of technology in orthodontics right now however is the use of computerised treatment simulations. This has been used with Invisalign for some time now and is starting to become used in braces systems as well.
The way it works is that general instructions are provided to the computer technicians who then use sophisticated programs to manipulate the teeth to what they feel is an ideal outcome. The "set up" is sent back to the orthodontist for review and adjustments are made. This process can continue for as long as it takes. In complex cases the set up may be send backwards and forwards a half a dozen times before a final arrangement is agreed upon. In simple cases it might only be once or twice.
In the case of sequential plastic aligners such as Invisalign once the final arrangement of the teeth (the goal or outcome desired) is set then the complete set up for plates are constructed and sent back to the orthodontist. With the braces system the brackets are custom manufactured to that patient’s specification and a set of wires is also custom fabricated. The idea is that allowances are made for individual variations in tooth shapes and special adjustments are made to facilitate the best positioning of the teeth with the maximum amount built into the basic appliance.
In other words the idea is that all the thought going into the case is put into the set up so that the minimum amount of extra work is required by the orthodontists at the end of treatment to finalise the tooth position. If the technology worked perfectly theoretically it would mean that at the end of the archwires the teeth would be perfectly straight. While this is a magnificent result if it can be achieved in practice there is still some tweaking to be done in virtually any case but it should greatly reduce the amount of effort required and therefore time required to complete orthodontic cases.
This system is fairly new but I expect that systems like this will become common place over the next five years or so in orthodontics. Just now it costs significantly more than regular orthodontic systems but like all technology I expect that will improve as well. Technology does indeed provide advances both from the patient’s perceptions of orthodontic treatment and also in the ability to deliver better outcomes more predictably in the minimum possible time.
The future of orthodontics remains exciting!
To find out more about our orthodontic treatment, or to book an appointment, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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