It was not too far in the past that visiting the Dentist as a child or teenager and hearing the word ‘Orthodontist’ would fill patients with fear and trepidation. Thoughts of unpleasant procedures, invasive headgear and glaring oral mechanisms troubled generations of children, but thanks to significant developments, we live in a time where treatment can be minimally invasive, pain-free and focussed on discretion.
Believe it or not, orthodontics date back to Egyptian times, with mummies discovered by archaeologists with rudimentary teeth straightening devices; something that has continued through history. From the ancient Greeks, the Romans, right up to pre-revolution France, civilisations through time have experimented with teeth straightening with varying degrees of success or evidence. The quest for straighter teeth gathered momentum through the 1800’s; however, it’s not until recent history that we see some of the biggest advances, paving the way for painless and discreet solutions that have catalysed orthodontics by choice. In fact, a survey from the British Orthodontic Society (BOS) found that three quarters of practices have seen increases in adult orthodontic treatment.
It’s not so long ago that orthodontics was considered purely cosmetic, compared with today where the health benefits of teeth straightening have been widely acknowledged – fuelling this pursuit for advances.
At the turn of the twentieth century ‘braces’ as a method of teeth straightening were becoming more and more commonplace, but the methods and materials used (often gold & silver) made for a more unpleasant and expensive procedure.
Come the 1970s, breakthroughs in several areas of orthodontics were paving the way for more accessible and effective treatment options. Stainless steel was being introduced to replace the more expensive gold and silver options, reducing the cost of treatment. Where initially dental wires/bands were wrapped round individual teeth to bind them to the brackets, these brackets could now be bonded directly to teeth, making the process far more comfortable for the patient and easier for the Orthodontist. The 1970s also saw Orthodontists employ techniques to affix brackets to the back of the teeth to disguise the use of braces – known as lingual braces – beginning the trend of invisible braces.
During the 1990s, a special heat-activated, nickel-titanium metal discovered by NASA in the 60’s became more readily available to the dental industry and has been instrumental in the fabrication of arch wires. These new arch wires have enabled teeth to move teeth more efficiently, meaning treatment that once took four to six years now can be completed in two years or less.
Fast-forward to the early 2000s where clear aligner therapy really began to gain traction. Beginning with Invisalign, patients with suitable requirements were now able to achieve nearly invisible orthodontics with graduated, removable, clear plastic aligners. Millions of cases have now been completed around the world and continue to be a very popular option for patients where discretion is a consideration.
Another notable improvement came in the mid-2000s with intra oral scanning technology – This technology meant that no impressions (which can be uncomfortable) needed to be taken prior to treatment. Instead, scans were completed in double quick time, maximising patient comfort and time efficiencies.
At the turn of the decade in 2010, cone beam CT scanning was brought into practices allowing a full 3D overview of a patient and the underlying structures of their teeth, mouth and jaw. This enables a complete diagnosis and treatment planning in a far less invasive and speedy manner; saving time and comfort.
So, where does this leave us present day? As technology has become more sophisticated and more readily available, the orthodontic industry has had to evolve with this. Almost everyone now owns a smartphone with better cameras than you would find in a professional camera of 10 years ago. With dental monitoring a patient now has the option to take photos of their teeth while wearing their aligners and software will tell the orthodontic practice if the treatment is ‘tracking’ well. If not, a red warning is shown and patient has to call the practice. Whilst this is still in its infancy, it’s safe to assume that this will increase; however, we still recommend a treatment that ensures you visit your Orthodontist during your treatment. Whilst alignment is the key part of treatment, each patients’ teeth will respond to movement in different ways. Your Orthodontist is best placed to judge your journey to alignment and may make small tweaks to your treatment, wires, or even lightly file teeth, to ensure the best results are achieved.
Portman Smile Clinic has made investing into orthodontic advances a priority – Learn more about our advanced treatment options if you’re considering orthodontics.