Recent technological advancements, combined with the skills of an orthodontist, enable patients to get more precise and customized treatments that can be completed in less time.
Over the last 10 years, orthodontic practices have incorporated digital technology to make diagnosis and treatment planning more precise, and orthodontic treatment more efficient.
Intra-oral digital scanning is one of the greatest technological advancements available today. It and allows the orthodontist to obtain a working digital model of the mouth and jawbone.
Previously patients had to endure the messy and uncomfortable process of physical impressions of teeth with putty. and the orthodontist would use calipers and physical measurements of plaster dental models to determine the best course of treatment. Today, that scanner captures hundreds of images of the teeth and gum with a radiation-free laser, and stitches those images together to give a precise digital model of the patient’s mouth.
Starting with this computerized model, the orthodontists can digitally manipulate the teeth and jaw to determine the best path to achieve results. This literally means the orthodontist can start with the end in mind and select the best treatment appliance or combination of appliances to achieve alignment goals. Additionally the appliances are made using the digital model, which gives patients more precise fitting and more comfortable appliances.
Customized braces are now manufactured using these digital scans. Before this technology, brackets could not account for differences in tooth anatomy from one patient to another. Today, individual brackets can be customized for each patient so that the braces can adapt to each tooth perfectly.
For more difficult or technical cases, the advancement of three-dimensional imaging and Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) are giving patients a better experience. Much like the computerized model above, this technology is like CT scan imaging and will give us a 3-D rendering of all teeth, dental structures, soft tissues, nerve paths and bone in the craniofacial region in a single scan. CBCT equips the orthodontist with a wealth of information regarding unerupted teeth, facial asymmetry, craniofacial anomalies, temporomandibular (TMD) disorders, airway conditions and true root information to enable more precise treatment planning.
This is new technology that hasn’t yet become the standard of care, but certainly holds promise for the future as the technology continues to develop, and, for today, is benefiting patients with technical cases.
Ultimately, the technological advances in orthodontics are creating a pro-active treatment process with digital modeling, requiring fewer “course corrections” during the alignment process. On average, patients will see a three- to six-month reduction in treatment times.
All patients can benefit from these new technologies, with increased benefit to those patients with complex treatment factors, such as missing teeth, impacted teeth, craniofacial dysmorphology and cleft lip/palate syndrome.
Regardless of the complexity of the case, every patient should seek the care and expertise of a trained orthodontist. An orthodontist has the knowledge, training and access to the latest advancements in dental alignment and is more likely to invest and have these technologies in their offices.