There was a time that teenagers and adults alike trembled at the thought of having to get braces. The minute a dentist recommended seeing an orthodontist, the words “metal mouth”, “tin teeth” and other unattractive adjectives ran through people‘s heads.
Boy, have times changed. Today, with the new technologies available, people of all ages are choosing orthodontic treatment to achieve a beautiful, healthy smile. The American Association of Orthodontics, which is the presiding organization over orthodontists in the United States, has come out with some dramatic statistics in regards to the popularity of braces in today‘s society.
- Over four million individuals in the United States are undergoing some type of orthodontic treatment. Orthodontic treatment can consist of braces, invisible braces, or retainers.
- 33 percent of the world‘s population has undergone orthodontic treatment at some point in their life.
- 80 percent of the teenagers in the United States are currently undergoing orthodontic treatment.
- The number of adults who are seeking orthodontic treatment increased by 24 percent between the years of 1982 and 2008.
- 1982 to 2008 saw a 99 percent increase in the number of teenage orthodontic cases that were taken on by orthodontists all across the United States.
- The average age to seek treatment for overcrowding of the teeth in the United States is around the age of 10, which is dramatically different from the 1900s when people saw orthodontists in their mid-20s.
Braces leverage the basic principles of engineering. Constant, mild pressure in the direction of desired movement will allow for an overall change in tooth position. As pressure is applied to the periodontal ligament, which holds the teeth in place, the body will automatically create room in the desired new location while also filling in the space where the teeth used to be located. If too much force is applied at once or in a short period of time, tooth loss is possible. This is the reason for the need for small changes to be made every 30 or so days for the duration of treatment. To be sure, teeth movement by way of orthodontic treatment must be constantly monitored and adjusted. While every patient is different, movement of 1 mm per month is usually possible with orthodontic care.
Traditional braces are generally worn for two to two-and-a-half years, depending on the extent of orthodontic treatment needed. When a lot of movement is needed, a longer duration of care may be necessary. Conversely, small amount of movement of the dentition will require a shorter period of time.
Before Braces Were Known as Braces
Orthodontic braces weren‘t invented until the early 1800s, but people‘s preoccupation with straight teeth, and/or proper jaw alignment dates back to the time of the ancient Egyptians. The methods of teeth straightening varied from culture to culture, but the intent was clear — people wanted straight teeth for a perfect smile. Exploring the history of orthodontic braces can not only relieve some of the fear and emotions surrounding this sometimes intimidating dental device, but it can also be interesting to see just how braces have progressed and improved over the years.
Before dental braces could be introduced to the general public, extensive medical and dental research needed to be conducted. Dental braces and the concept of orthodontic braces started to appear in medical journals and books around 1770. The term “braces” wasn‘t coined until the early 1900s. However, dentists were working diligently to create and improve the methods and techniques used to align and straighten teeth. The world of orthodontics saw considerable advances that eventually led to the invention of modern day braces.
The braces of the early 1900s were dramatically different than the braces people think about today. Dentists would individually wrap bands (materials varied) around each tooth. The bands would then be connected by a wire. The wire could be adjusted to apply pressure to the teeth in hopes of slowly moving them into proper alignment. Orthodontic techniques stayed relatively the same until the 1970s when numerous breakthrough techniques were discovered. The biggest breakthrough technique was the use of a dental adhesive to hold dental brackets to the teeth.
In recent years, there have been tremendous advances in orthodontic technology. New materials like Nickel Titanium (NiTi) wires combine with new technologies like SureSmile® and i-CAT® 3D imaging to produce better results with shorter treatment times.