We’ve come a long way and have made several high tech advancements in the area of orthodontic braces. There was a time that just the mention of braces would make both the parents and the child shudder. Parents knew their child was going to have to endure pain and discomfort. and the child knew he was going to be faced with ridicule for his “metal mouth.” But those days are long gone. By understanding how braces have changed over the years, you as a parent can rest easy knowing that your child will have a much less painful, and overall more pleasant, experience.
Modern braces have undergone a variety of aesthetic changes over the years. The brackets of traditional metal braces are now smaller and smoother. This allows for easier cleaning and a more comfortable fit inside of the mouth but also makes them a lot less noticeable. There are also ceramic braces that are the same size and shape of their metal counterparts, but have brackets that are either tooth colored or clear so that they blend in with the patient’s teeth. A common alternative to systems using brackets and wires that has gained immense popularity in recent years is the Invisalign product. Treatment with Invisalign consists of wearing a series of clear, invisible trays that align the teeth. While Invisalign isn’t appropriate for severe cases, patients that are able use them have the benefit of being able to remove the trays at any time.
Another great advancement made in modern orthodontics is the use of self ligating braces. Traditional metal braces use an elastic tie, the colorful rubber bands you see, to keep the archwire in place within the bracket. Because the wire is being pressed against the bracket, there is a large amount friction in the system and more pressure has to be applied to get teeth to move. Self ligating braces on the other hand do not use elastics to keep the archwire in place. Instead they make use of a gate on the bracket so the wire is passively held inside of a tunnel in the bracket itself. This greatly reduced the amount of force required to adjust the position of a patient’s teeth.
Perhaps the most interesting change to braces in recent years is the use of heat activated titanium alloy wires. These wires apply a constant, gradual force to teeth when they are at mouth temperature. This results in less trips to the orthodontist for adjustments and tightening of the wires. Most importantly though, there is much less pain involved due to the gentle and more natural way the teeth are being moved. Used in conjunction with self ligating braces, the worst your child will feel is a slight amount of soreness.
So you see, braces are no longer the painful, embarrassing hassle they once were. Braces have changed in a variety of ways over the years and have become much more “patient friendly” through the use of new designs, systems and materials. It does make one wonder though; how will braces have changed in another 20 years?