Just like technology has advanced our lives in so many ways, technology too has improved tremendously the design, shape and function of today’s modern braces.
The braces today that most Orthodontists use worldwide are individually designed to move each and every tooth in your mouth in a specific manner. This means that every brace or “bracket” is specific to each tooth in a person’s mouth. Years and years of research and development have determined the accurate amount of tip, the perfect angulation and the ideal final position of each tooth.
This type of design and specifications came about in the late 1970’s. Before this time, the braces that were placed on your teeth were not specifically designed for each tooth and did not have built-in angulations nor ideal positions for the teeth. Orthodontists had to place bends in the wire to get the teeth to tip or angle into the correct position.
The “wire bending” that occurred essentially gave Orthodontists the name “Wire Benders.” With the newer technology today, Orthodontists rarely need to bend a wire. The sophisticated braces that are usually used by today’s modern Orthodontists provide a carrier for the wire. The wire is engaged into the “bracket” slot and the actual slot has been machined in a specific way to move that particular tooth. The wire then does its job of moving the tooth into its ideal position.
Let’s discuss the wires that we use in Orthodontics. There have been many advances in wire technology that have helped improved tooth movement. The wires we use today move the teeth more efficiently, with less discomfort and often in less time. That is because of space age technology. The scientists who work at NASA developed metals that could be used up in space. That technology has come to planet earth in the form of “space-age” wires that we use today in modern Orthodontics.
These wires have the characteristics of maintaining their shape no matter how crooked or twisted the patient’s teeth. This ability to maintain their shape and not distort or get bent is what allows the teeth to move efficiently and consistently over time. Because of this constant force the wires needed to move the teeth are much lighter and therefore the teeth are less sore.
We have the bracket on the tooth and the wire that goes through the bracket, but how does the wire stay in place?
Again, technology has provided advances in this area that allow the wire to be held in place by tiny little rubber bands (often of different colors) and even more recently, clipped into place by a door or hinge type mechanism.
This differs from what was done early on in Orthodontics. The wires were typically tied into place with a smaller, thinner wire called a “ligature tie.” These were “spun” down and often patients could feel the wire tightened down on the bracket as the ligature tie was tightened down. These are still used today for certain “stubborn” teeth and are still very effective in moving teeth.
The tiny colored rubber ties that are most often seen today have been around for 30 years. The colors have become a fashion statement and another accessory to match your hair and clothing. The colored ties are what many patients desire and get excited about when they think of getting braces.
Within the last 20 years the newest trend has been what is called “self-ligation.” This does not mean that the patient can freely remove and place his or her own wire (although removal of wires by patients does happen!)
The “self-ligation” braces generally are where the wire is held in place by a clip or hinge that is built into the bracket itself. This type of design is very clean and efficient. Without the colored rubber ties, less food gets caught around the braces and therefore they are easier to keep clean. The efficiency comes from the fact that with the wire clipped into place, there is continuous force placed on the tooth. This continuous force is what allows the tooth to move efficiently and more quickly into its ideal position.
The rubber type colored ties will break down and loose their elasticity after a few weeks, so the wire is not engaged into the bracket as securely and therefore the tooth movement is not a continuous and constant.
There are several manufacturers of these types of braces. Damon, SPEED, Inovation-R and Inovation-C are just a sampling.
“The day I got my braces on I thought, ‘what the heck have I done?’ I could not imagine 18 months of the discomfort and ‘silly looking’ braces. Thanks to SPEED Braces and the kind, happy and supportive staff, I look back now with pure gratitude. It only took 12 months (and I was prepared for 18 months!) Overall I am glad I did this.”
~ Mark S (age, 50)
As this patient above experienced, the self-ligation type braces (in this case SPEED Braces) move the teeth continuously with constant force. This is not an uncommon experience….to finish your Orthodontic treatment ahead of schedule with this type of appliance.
What about robots that bend wires?
Yes it is true! Instead of having highly specialized and very tooth-specific braces placed on your teeth, there is an Orthodontic Company that gives the Orthodontist a machine that scans a patients teeth (after the braces are placed). This scan is then downloaded to their software and the teeth are moved into their ideal position and bite.
The computer program is able to tract and analyze each step of each tooth’s movement and determine the exact position of each and every tooth.
Then the proprietary software enables a small “robot” to basically bend the wires that will be needed to treat the patient and get the desired result.
The wires in this case are bent with the appropriate angulations and positioning of the teeth. This is truly a high tech and (as you can imagine) a high cost way to move your teeth.
Other recent innovations have been the development of braces behind the teeth (called lingual braces). Several companies provide these types of braces and they vary in their ability to move your teeth into the ideal position.
Many patients opt for these types of braces because they do not want anything on their front teeth because of professional needs (modeling, acting, sales etc.). The technology that has been developed for these types of braces includes actually custom making each and every bracket for each tooth. These custom braces are designed to fit your teeth only. Wires that are robotically bent are also part of the treatment and are designed to move the teeth in a very specific way.
“Thank you for taking such good care of me through this process. I feel much better about myself and now love to smile.”’
~ Angela W
Orthodontics continues to be a the forefront of advances in technology. Continued research and development will provide more efficient and effective ways to move teeth with less discomfort and less time in braces. The “techno-braces” of today have definitely provided many happy patients with a beautiful smile in less time and with little to no discomfort.
“Thank you so much. Without you I would still be embarrassed to smile. Because of you, I smile so much. You guys are so nice!”
~ Linda P