Smaller brackets, tooth-coloured options and even plastic aligners have largely replaced traditional metal braces.
Braces have evolved considerably over the years. With new technologies available, plus an acknowledgment that braces are a necessity for people of various ages and not just children, patients of all ages are choosing orthodontic procedures to give themselves healthy smiles.
Orthodontic treatment in some shape or form has been around since 1000 BC. Studies of exhumed Egyptian mummies found that some Egyptians were buried with crude metal bands around their teeth, and archaeologists believe a material may have been tied to these bands to provide pressure to move the teeth. Ancient Romans and Greeks wrote about bringing newly emerging teeth into proper position by pushing them with fingers.
Pierre Fauchard is considered the father of dentistry and a pioneer in the field of orthodontics. Fauchard invented the bandeau, which was a horseshoe-shaped strip of metal with regularly spaced holes to fit around teeth and correct their alignment, states the Colgate Oral Care Center.
Nowadays, braces have evolved even further, with millions of people choosing from the various types of braces to correct dental problems. The American Association of Orthodontics notes that one out of five orthodontic patients is over the age of 21 – proving it’s never too late to straighten one’s teeth.
Braces were once considered a cosmetic procedure only. Dentists today recognize that correcting misaligned teeth can prevent periodontal problems, tooth wear, dental carries, infected gums, and various forms of dental disease.
Braces work by applying pressure to the teeth to gradually shift them and the jaw. Traditional braces consist of small brackets adhered to the teeth that are connected by a wire. Pressure is achieved by periodically using tight, thick wires. As pressure is applied to the periodontal ligament, which holds the teeth in place, the body will naturally create new room and adjust. If too much pressure is applied too soon, tooth loss may occur.
Braces no longer resemble the railroad style metal braces that wrapped around teeth in the early 1970s. Brackets are small and may be the colour of metal or enamel. Brackets may be affixed to the front of the teeth or the back. Some people opt for clear plastic aligners, which can be very successful in the hands of trained orthodontists.
Many orthodontists use heat-activated nickel-titanium alloy wires that apply constant pressure and do not need to be tightened as frequently. Also, advanced photography and X-rays enable orthodontists to plan treatment plans more effectively.
Orthodontists spend two to three years learning how to properly align teeth and jaws, says the American Association of Orthodontists. Braces treatment lasts an average of about two years, with patients visiting the orthodontist every four to six weeks for adjustments.
Braces have come a long way. In a short time, anyone can have a beautiful smile to show off. (MCC)