The Evolution of Braces
TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES MAKE ANCIENT PRACTICES OBSOLETE
Did you know that the first signs of orthodontic treatments were found on Egyptian mummies with crude metal bands wrapped around individual teeth? It’s evidence that the desire for a gorgeous smile isn’t just a modern concept.
Some of the earliest documented cases of teeth irregularities and treatment were recorded around 400-25 BC, making it apparent that the longing for straight teeth isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, it’s been on the minds of humans for over 3,000 years. Lucky for us, the ancient orthodontic methods once used to achieve great smiles have improved dramatically since then, with some of the best technological advancements taking place within the last decade.
One of the most significant advancements in orthodontics is the ability to be proactive, versus reactive. In the past, most orthodontic treatment was performed as a reactive measure; however, new technologies, including x-rays and digital scanners, offer a more proactive approach. Orthodontists now have the ability to address potential issues or complications before any discomfort happens, leading to shorter treatment periods and a more comfortable experience overall.
Awareness is the first step in proactive treatment. According to The American Association of Orthodontists, all children should have their first exam at seven-years-old. At this age, the mouth is comprised of temporary baby teeth and permanent adult teeth. More often than not, treatment isn’t needed at seven years of age, but early screening and examination gives the orthodontist plenty of time to gather critical information about a patient’s oral health and determine if there could potentially be any problems. If exams are continuously delayed, good oral health could be jeopardized and more extensive and aggressive treatment may be needed for any corrections. Think of it this way – proactive/preventive treatment can go a long way in limiting the extent of treatment later on.
Another significant change for orthodontists is the fact that braces are no longer “tightened.” You’ve probably heard older generations complain about their painful experiences of going to appointments and having their braces tightened to help move the teeth. Well, that technique is no longer used. Instead, today we use light, continuous pressure that is more effective in moving the teeth quickly and safely.
In fact, the new “tightening-free” method was actually a NASA breakthrough. The organization developed heat-activated nickel-titanium alloy wires that are flexible at room temperature, but when they warm to body temperature, they become active and gradually move teeth in the necessary direction. Each wire varies in size and shape to help dictate tooth movement. By incorporating the appropriate set into the patient’s treatment, orthodontists can provide a biologically optimal force that speeds up treatment and makes it more comfortable.
Orthodontic treatment has come a long way since 400 BC, and it’s only getting better. Luckily for patients, new advancements continue to improve the world of orthodontics and provide patients of all ages with a more comfortable and quicker experience. We can officially say goodbye to using catgut for closing gaps in teeth and metal bands on individual teeth and say hello to modern day braces and Invisalign.