Technology for treating orthodontic issues is, as is all medical technology, constantly moving forward, becoming better, easier, less invasive, cheaper, and more widely available to the people most likely to need the treatment. And so it is with the treatment methods for those with misaligned teeth’ the technology continues to move forward and continues to evolve.
It’s astonishing to see how much braces have changed in such a short amount of time, however. Braces aren’t a very old method of treatment, as far as medical processes go, but in that short time they’ve gained an astonishing amount of market share, and there is good reason for that. They were a vast improvement over the orthodontic treatment that they replaced, which was also the first real treatment that had a record of having a decent impact on the alignment issues they were seeking to fix, orthodontic headgear. Standard metal braces were a massive improvement, in that they were far more comfortable, far more discreet, and far simpler than the headgear they replaced.
Braces came into existence in the 50s, although only as a concept, not a workable treatment method. The reason they remained theoretical is because there simply didn’t exist, at the time, an appropriate dental adhesive to use to hold the braces to the teeth. The dental adhesives in current use in the 50s were not geared toward long-term use; they were geared toward people who were going to be using them over the short-term, for uses like affixing a set of dentures in the mouth for a few hours. Without a semi-permanent method to affix the brackets to the teeth, braces just simply don’t work; the brackets need to be held in place in the same place over the long-term in order to generate the long-term pressures and tensions needed in order to align the teeth properly. In the early 70s, however, the proper dental adhesive was made, and thus braces became a realistic possibility as a method of adult braces for smile correction.
Braces are simplicity in themselves, much less of a hassle than the headgear that came before them. Braces are almost artistic in their simplicity, like a painting with but three brush strokes upon them (and the braces are much less expensive). They consist of a series of brackets, which are mounted on the teeth with the aforementioned dental adhesive that was developed in the 70s. These brackets tended to be made of various metals, most commonly dental gold. Over the tops of the brackets was run a metal wire, which fit into a groove in the brackets, and was hooked onto the brackets at the extreme ends of the row in order to create the tension needed to manipulate the teeth, slowly, into better alignment. These metal wires are held in place with the use of rubber bands, which will eventually deteriorate, but are cheap and easy to replace. Of course, over time, the technologies involved in braces would undergo some changes. For example, the brackets, originally usually made of either stainless steel or dental gold (which has long since been abandoned as a dental implement of any sort, for the most part) are now made of titanium or ceramics, which are meant to blend in to the teeth, better disguising the presence of the braces. The design of the brackets, too, has changed; where once they had the groove for the wire on the top, the groove now goes through the center of the bracket, eliminating the need for the rubber bands.
However, an even newer, more revolutionary form of braces have since been developed. In the late 90s, a pair of Stanford grads developed invisible, custom-made and form fitted to your particular teeth, braces that are see-through. These braces are more commonly known by their trade and brand name, Invisalign, and they are the next big thing in orthodontics. They’ve already begun to grow immensely in popularity of use, and are set to continue doing so, possibly even replacing standard braces in the same way that standard braces replaced headgear before them.
So, if you think that you may need some professional orthodontic help with the way that your smile works, if you’re less than satisfied with the natural alignment of your teeth and feel like an orthodontist might be able to help out, or if you just want to make some minor adjustments to the way that your teeth are positioned, please, make that call to your local orthodontist, and be sure to ask about Inivsalign.