Human beings have been making efforts to correct their teeth since long before they knew that there were functional and health benefits associated with having straight teeth. Initially, bringing teeth into alignment was more for aesthetic appeal than anything else but orthodontists have identified all kinds of health benefits that make teeth and jaw alignment an endeavor worthy of further study. Ancient Egyptians may have had some understanding of malocclusions (misaligned teeth and bites); however they most likely had metal bands around their teeth fashioned in order to make them straighter. Archeologists who examined the mummified remains of ancient Egyptians discovered the existence of crude, metal bands around their teeth that were most likely used for this purpose. It may sound odd but over the course of thousands of years not much had been done to improve upon this antiquated method.
After stainless steel was introduced and it became the metal of choice for orthodontists everywhere, metal bands were still wrapped around individual teeth in order to create a surface with which to mold adjustment mechanisms to in order to create a way of controlling the movement of one’s teeth. It was not until the 1970s that a dental adhesive was perfected and approved for use with straight fixed wire appliances (braces) that bracket technology could be most effectively used. Self-litigating brackets (brackets with a trap door mechanism) were far ahead of their time with regard to the adhesive that was not available for use until decades after these specific brackets were designed and patented. During the time before dental adhesive was available for use in the application of braces, brackets made out of transparent plastic and ceramic were coming into the orthodontic sphere as well.
It is common for an orthodontist to refer to braces that are made with materials that are designed to be more discreet than stainless tell brackets as adult braces or cosmetic braces. Kids do not have to worry about experiencing any social consequences from having braces because they are more common during this time than any other in a person’s life, but adults understandably feel a lot different about the prospect of fixing their teeth using braces. The end-result that the patient and orthodontist mutually deem appropriate determines a lot of things about the methods that will be required to get there. Although brackets made out of ceramic and transparent plastic are much more discreet than stainless steel, sometimes it is not enough to make an adult feel comfortable with the idea of wearing braces so they look for alternative ways of correcting their teeth that are offered in their orthodontist’s treatment repertoire.
In an effort to make braces even less conspicuous than the ones that are applied using transparent plastic or ceramic brackets, orthodontists on opposite sides of the world in Japan and the US began experimenting with applying the brackets to the backsides of teeth instead of the front. This method is called lingual braces and they are completely undetectable but they are much more complicated to install. Orthodontic specialists who offer this treatment method require specialized training in order to properly administer this technique. Not everyone is a good candidate for this method because of how the brackets and interconnecting wiring is applied, so this is not an option for everyone. However, for those who are looking for a discreet solution in this day-in-age, it is a great option to get the results that only braces are able to provide. Advancements in digital computer imaging have made it possible to custom-fit these braces so they are more comfortable for the patients wearing them as well.
Advancements that were made in other fields have created ways to straighten teeth out that do not require the use of brackets or wiring of any kind. Invisalign is a method that became popular starting in 2000 when computer imaging and 3-D printing technologies made it possible to gather detailed information about a person’s teeth. Once gathered, this information was fed into computer imaging software that is capable of extrapolating the data in order to make small adjustments to a series of images that gradually adjust into an aligned smile. Depending on the individual scenario and how far out of alignment one’s teeth are, a half-dozen to a dozen or more ‘aligners’ are manufactured using a 3-D printer that the patient wears according to the schedule laid out for them by their orthodontist. This is a great way for those who are considered good candidates for this procedure to correct their smiles.