Brace yourself! The world of orthodontics has gone through something of a renaissance over the last few decades. If you’re a parent who had braces as a kid or if your only exposure to braces is childhood friends and Hollywood depictions, it’s possible you have a slightly outdated view of what modern braces are. Kids today have options that didn’t even exist a few decades ago and even familiar metal braces have improved!
How has technology improved braces in recent years?
More than likely, when you imagine braces, you envision conventional braces made of metal brackets bonded to the teeth and joined together by an arch wire and elastic bands. Even these are a relatively new innovation, having been introduced in the 1970s. While they have been the standard in orthodontic care for half a century, conventional metal braces have undergone an evolution in recent years.
The changes were subtle, with new materials and small refinements, but they stacked up over time. Braces today have smaller brackets and thinner wires than we had when we were kids. Moreover, orthodontic treatment is faster and requires fewer visits, on average.
What are the best alternatives to traditional braces to straighten teeth?
If you were paying attention to orthodontic treatment around the turn of the century, you probably remember watching the emergence of Invisalign’s transparent aligners with growing envy. They’ve only gotten better since they were first introduced providing an effective, convenient, and nearly invisible orthodontic option. Even getting models of teeth is easier with the iTero Element Intraoral scanner.
- A quick and accurate 3D scan of the inside of your mouth informs your treatment plan
- Invisalign clear aligners apply gentle pressure comparable to conventional braces to move teeth into the desired position
- Patients progress through a series of slightly modified aligners throughout treatment
- You can (and should) take them out to eat, brush, and floss!
While Invisalign is a household name, it’s not the only option if you’re looking for something subtler than conventional braces. Clarity Advanced Clear Braces evolved directly from conventional braces. While they still rely on brackets, wires, and elastics, every effort has been made to make those components fade into the background and have these three benefits:
- Brackets made of semi-transparent ceramic to blend in with your natural tooth color
- Elastics (ligatures) can also be transparent, although other color choices are available
- While the arch wire remains visible, the total profile is significantly reduce
What type of retainer is best after braces?
Whichever type of braces you choose, they’ll make up the main phase of your orthodontic treatment. However, you’re not finished once the braces come off. Now that your teeth are in place, you have to keep them there with some form of long-term retention device.
Most of the time, that entails removable retainers custom made with smooth plastic just like Invisalign trays. Typically, you’ll wear them while you sleep to help hold your teeth in place. We always say, “nighttime for a lifetime” to guarantee the teeth won’t move. However, you might opt for a bonded
lingual retainer, a thin metal wire stuck to the back of the teeth. There are pros and cons to all retainers and your orthodontist will talk to you about which is best for your situation.
You’ve probably noticed that orthodontic headgear isn’t as apparent these days as it used to be. Innovations and improvements in orthodontic treatment have reduced the need for headgear. Alternative devices like the Carrier Motion Appliance can often achieve the same results without external headgear. Sometimes, though, headgear might be the best option to make adjustment to the jawbone that can’t be achieved with braces alone. Fortunately, the headgear of today is subtler than older versions and typically consists of a thin wire and minimal supporting architecture.
Getting braces is a big decision and a long-term commitment, but the experience has improved dramatically in recent years. Your orthodontics team at Families First Pediatrics provides the most innovative and proven options so your path to a straight smile is as ideal as possible!