Orthodontics In the 21st Century
For decades, orthodontists have relied on the same diagnostic tools and appliances for the treatment of their patients. Todays orthodontic offices benefit from the integration of computer technology and manufacturing in almost every aspect of your treatment. From the initial diagnosis of your malocclusion (bad bite) to the visit when your beautiful smile is unveiled, computer technologies are at work helping your orthodontist deliver the best care possible.
Computer engineers and software developers have been working hard developing 3D digital X-ray machines for dentistry. The new machines create 3D images similar to CAT scans used in the medical field. Complex 3D analysis of orthodontic problems, both skeletal and dental, will soon be possible allowing better diagnosis and treatment of complex orthodontic problems.
The treatment of orthodontic problems also benefits from advances in computer technology. Several years ago, Align Technology, Inc., an orthodontic laboratory based in the Silicon Valley area of California, developed the Invisalign system. Patients treated with the Invisalign system wear a series of removable clear plastic “aligners” to correct their orthodontic problems. Each aligner in the series is worn for two weeks. After an average of 25 aligners (one year), your teeth are aligned and look great without the look of traditional braces. To achieve this, Align Technology utilizes laser scanning of traditional dental molds to develop a virtual reality computer animation of your orthodontic treatment. After approval by your orthodontist, the laboratory employs stereo lithography to produce resin models of the “virtual” stages of dental movements. From the models, plastic aligners are then fabricated and trimmed by robots for a precise fit. Not long ago, this technology was only science fiction.
Orthodontic companies that manufacture braces are now also developing high tech alternatives to the traditional standard braces. “Self-ligating” (SL) braces are a category of braces that employ some active types of opening and closing mechanisms that reduce the friction between the brace and the wire. Less friction results in more efficient tooth movements with easier in-office adjustments and less discomfort.
Custom-machined orthodontic braces are now a reality. Until recently, braces were more or less generic for each patient. They were not custom made for your teeth and your malocclusion. The Insignia system by ORMCO is a complete custom solution for your smile. ORMCO and your orthodontist work together to develop patient-specific braces and wires via fully interactive computer software and manufacturing. The system eliminates many time-consuming adjustment appointments that are inherent with generic braces. This results in less time in treatment due to increased clinical efficiency.
The benefits of orthodontic care and healthy mouths continue to be studied. An ever-increasing body of research supports the idea that a beautiful, healthy smile is beneficial for not only your mind, but also for your body. If you have concerns about the health of your mouth and smile, call an orthodontist to schedule a consultation to discuss how 21st century orthodontics can improve your life.