By Dr. Jeff Beyer
Braces are timeless. Not only do they continue to make up about 85% of all the patients that we treat, but — believe it or not — they have found evidence of braces all the way back to Egyptian mummies! Braces became a part of mainstream teenage life in the ‘70s, and the truth is, they were very uncomfortable, and not very pretty :). Large metal bands surrounded every tooth in the mouth, and most everyone had to wear a headgear (even to school!).
Significant advances with braces have been made in a relatively short period of time. Braces are now smaller, smoother, and most importantly, can be bonded directly to the tooth surface with the same material dentists use to place white fillings. In other words, no more bands around the teeth, which means no more spacers between the teeth, either. In addition, new wire types make moving teeth much less painful, and patients can often go 8-10 weeks before needing to return to the orthodontist for adjustments or wire changes.
We sometimes get requests for “inside” or lingual braces, and to be quite honest, they are just not that popular. The trade-off for not being able to see them — they’re attached behind the teeth — is usually much more discomfort having all of the braces on the tongue side, so it is rare that we ever use them anymore.
Improvements continue to be made with the “look” of braces as well. We now have gold braces, clear braces, and even braces with different shapes. The most popular is still the silver (stainless steel) type, where people can choose an almost unlimited number of colors and change them each time they come in to update their look. For those patients who do not want colored braces, there is a type called “self-ligating,” which do not require any kind of color to be placed around the brace to hold the wire in.
Braces work by applying a specific force to a tooth, and in turn that force causes the tooth to move in the desired direction. Fully trained orthodontists spend the first part of their residency training programs undergoing intense training in physics and biomechanics. Once the tooth is moving, a lot of physiologic and biochemical reactions are taking place around the bones and gums to allow for the tooth to move and the body to adapt to it.
There is no denying that orthodontics (and dentistry in general) is moving toward a digital world. The invention of digital scanning, and 3-D printing have allowed for clear aligner systems (Invisalign) to become a part of how we deliver orthodontic care. But traditional braces are not going away anytime soon. Both systems have their pros and cons, and having both clear aligners and fixed braces give patients more choices than ever.
Would you like to schedule a consultation to discuss braces or other orthodontic treatment? Contact us today.