While teeth straightening is usually associated with teenagers, it’s becoming increasingly popular among adults who feel their smiles are marred by crooked teeth. This trend has been given a boost by technological advances – there’s no need to put yourself behind bars for a few years anymore.
Why go for braces?
The use of aligners or braces is usually driven purely by aesthetics, but it’s not the only reason for their use. Braces can also play a part in other dental processes such as those aimed at correcting bite problems, which could affect bone and gum tissue and lead to dental problems.
In conjunction with bite therapy, they are also part of treatment to correct jaw misalignment which can cause neck and head pain or migraines; and in the jaw enlargement process aimed at creating space to relieve overcrowding of teeth.
One of the biggest technological changes is “accelerated orthodontics”, the development of processes designed to dramatically shorten the amount of time taken to straighten teeth. These have been claimed to cut the current two to three years down to 8 months or less.
Accelerated orthodontics methods:
A mouthpiece which emits micro-pulses to encourage bones to grow and the teeth to move faster, is made to fit over the orthodontics and applied for 20 minutes a day.
Minor surgery is carried out to shape the bones and gums to encourage the teeth to shift faster.
Stimulation of cytokine activity, which is important in cell signalling, is done to make remodelling the bone faster and easier. It also enables specific teeth to be corrected. In some instances, teeth are forced into place immediately after the cytokine stimulation.
The new braces
There was a time when the uncomfortable and embarrassing wire cages that glinted in the sun were the only aligners available. Now there are many options:
- Metal braces are still used on their own or in conjunction with one or other of the newer types. Metal is kept to a minimum in the new models.
- Clear aligners (Invisalign) at fit over the teeth are almost unnoticeable and don’t use wire or metal. They can also be removed for eating and going out. These aligners are suitable only for less severe alignment problems.
- Lingual braces are made of metal, but they are applied to the back of the teeth so they are almost invisible. They are not as comfortable, and take some getting used to, as they do use wires and brackets.
- Ceramic braces are made out of clear or tooth-coloured ceramics, and are hardly noticeable in spite of the fact that they have wires. These wires are often silver-coloured, but wires with ceramic coloring are also available.
The non-brace approach
In cases where gaps and crooked teeth aren’t too major, gaps can be lessened and teeth straightened slightly, satisfying purely cosmetic needs.
This can be done with veneers, tough custom-made shells of composite resin or porcelain which are fitted to the front of the teeth. There’s also composite bonding, when coloured composite material is shaped, contoured and bonded onto the teeth while still malleable and then allowed to harden. This process can reshape teeth, as well as reduce gaps.