Is the Technology of Braces Outdated?
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Table of Contents
- How Your Teeth Move
- Ancient Braces
- Modern Braces
- Why Braces?
- Are Aligners for You?
The technology behind traditional braces isn’t outdated, but there have been advancements in the field that have improved upon it over the years. Today, patients have more options than ever before to straighten their teeth quickly and easily.
Why do your teeth move?
Think of a Halloween skeleton, and you're likely to think of a head filled with teeth rooted to the jaws. Your molars, incisors, and other teeth shouldn't move, right? After all, they are connected to the bony parts of your head.
In reality, your teeth can move quite easily. But they need constant pressure to make the shift.
Experts explain that mild pressure, constantly applied, will change the position of your teeth. It happens in a step-by-step fashion:
Supportive Structures Adjust
Ancient braces: crude and painful.
Archaeologists have uncovered mummies with teeth wrapped in wire and brackets. At first, experts suspected that these ancient people were wearing braces. Now, most suspect that tooth wrapping was part of the body burial prep process.
Real braces, as we know them, were developed in the 1700s. \ \ Researchers explain that Pierre Fauchard is the accepted father of orthodontia. He used a variety of tools in his work, including these:
As the years went on, other dental professionals built on this work. They began extracting teeth to ease crowding issues, and they used tools to expand the arch of the teeth.
Plates, screws, and other appliances crowded the mouths of early customers. Some had smiles cluttered with metal, but others had teeth covered with bone, fabric, wood, and other materials.
Are modern braces better?
Modern orthodontists don't whack at teeth with crude tools, and they don't cover up mouths with wood or catgut. But current orthodontic procedures might be very familiar to people living in the 1700s. The basic goals and methods are the same.
Until the 1970s, reporters explain, doctors wrapped wires around teeth to move them. Sophisticated and durable glues were made that allowed brackets to sit securely on teeth for the length of the treatment program. That main innovation changed braces, but the rest remains the same.
Sign up for braces, and your teeth will be connected by wires that shift about every 30 days. The braces apply constant pressure, and since they can't be removed, it's almost impossible for you to interfere with your doctor's treatment plan.
Your doctor might augment the wires and brackets with other tools, including these:
Why do people choose braces?
Some mouths need many adjustments to ensure an enhanced smile. It might seem cruel or unusual to wrap someone's entire mouth with wires and bands and springs. And honestly, some people need all of that help to feel healthy and comfortable in their smiles.
But many people do not. And braces can be hard to live with.
Braces simply never come off, even if you want to remove them, and your teeth need care while your smile is moving. To care for your teeth, you must do the following:
Avoid Dangerous Foods
Braces can also be painful. Wires can break and stab lips and gums until they bleed. Brackets can push and scrape on the inside of the lips and cause ulcers and sores.
Those wounds can take a long time to heal, as the contact between the injury and the hardware remains until the braces come out. And moving teeth can also be inherently painful.
A man who wore braces for many years described how he felt when his hardware was removed. He says he felt as though a 10-pound weight had been removed from the front of his face. He struggled to walk upright, as his body felt so different.
Few people would choose to live with discomfort like this unless they absolutely have to do so. For some people, a very viable second option exists.
Aligners are a better route.
Like braces, clear aligners apply continuous gentle pressure to move teeth into their optimal position in order to create the best possible bite and smile.
But while braces use a system that’s effective but possibly inefficient or even antiquated for some dental problems, aligners utilize modern technology and a modern attitude toward the needs of today’s dental patient to make orthodontic treatment more convenient, affordable, and efficient than ever before.
How do aligners work?
The aligner treatment process begins with a tooth scan or impression kit in order to get a clear picture of your current bite and orthodontic issues. Using software and orthodontic expertise, the aligner provider then determines where your teeth need to move to in order to achieve your most optimal smile.
This ideal smile could be considered the goal or end point. They then create a series of aligners to get you there.
The aligner trays are custom-made and fit snugly over your teeth, applying gentle pressure to gradually move them. Each tray is worn for about two weeks, for over 20 hours a day.
The aligners are shaped to copy your teeth, but with subtle changes (like predetermined pressure points and changes to tooth shape) that will move them along the “route” to your end-point — the optimal smile.
Premium aligners are clear, unnoticeable, and designed for comfort. Top providers create aligner trays from precision-cut material that is thin but durable, achieving a fit that’s natural-feeling yet effective.
Although some pressure is required to move teeth, the gentle progression of aligners allows for gradual movement.
Clear aligners are removable, so they won’t interfere with daily activities like eating or exercise. They can also be taken out as needed for special events, meetings, and interviews.
Because clear aligners can be taken out, they’re also easier to care for and won’t make oral hygiene more difficult or time-consuming. Any set dental devices (like braces) can create more crevices and hidden areas for plaque and bacteria to accumulate (for example, the space between the tooth and braces), therefore leading to an increased risk of decay or gum problems.
But aligners can simply be removed and cleaned as you complete your regular dental care routine.
While braces require multiple in-office visits and adjustments, clear aligner treatment offers virtual and mail-order options to make life easier.
Some providers may require an initial in-office consultation. Others, including Byte, allow aligner treatment to be fully completed from home or virtually.
Treatment will start with an in-home impression kit that ensures you’re a candidate for clear aligners. Your treatment plan will be designed from the completed impression kit. The aligner trays will then be mailed to you, and your progress will be monitored by professionals as you achieve your best smile.
An affordable alternative
With prices ranging from around $1,800 to $2,500, clear aligners are generally less expensive than braces, which can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000. Lingual braces, which are cemented to the back of the teeth for a less noticeable appearance, can cost even more.
Many aligner providers also offer payment plans.
Precision + technology = faster results
Aligners apply subtle pressure to all of your teeth at once, shifting them into a well-designed series of stages until they reach their desired positions. This continuous, all-over pressure provides faster results. While braces treatment can take 1–3 years to complete, clear aligners usually achieve smile goals in 4–8 months.
Some companies also offer accessories that improve the process. Byte’s HyperByte device (included in the Byte aligner kit), for example, uses high-frequency vibration to massage the gums and mouth. Devices like this may minimize discomfort and have been shown to improve results as well.
Modern companies with straightforward pricing
Dealing with dental billing can be a headache. There’s often additional fees and unexpected procedural costs, and it can be hard to get a clear answer on what exactly the out-of-pocket costs are going to be.
Customer service can also be a gamble. It all depends on your dentist and their office policies and attitude.
Top clear aligner companies are providing a very different experience. Customer service is often available through phone or online chat as well as through email.
With a focus on transparency, the most popular aligner providers charge for an impression kit, and then a clearly stated one-time fee for a complete aligner set. Some, including Byte, also offer a straightforward guarantee that ensures that if you need more aligners or if your teeth shift in the future, you’ll be covered.
Are aligners right for you?
Researchers say aligners are viable alternatives to braces for people with mild or moderate misalignment issues.
If your teeth need quite a bit of help to move in the right direction, aligners may not offer enough support. But if your smile needs less intensive work, this technology could be just right for you.
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History of Dental Braces. (February 2019). Medical Life Sciences News.
Clinical Effectiveness of Invisalign Orthodontic Treatment: A Systematic Review. (2018). Progress in Orthodontics.
Dental Braces and Retainers. WebMD.
Braces & Retainers. (May 2017). Cleveland Clinic.
The Basics of Braces. Nemours.
Braces, Pointless and Essential. (July 2015). The Atlantic.
Are You Too Old for Braces? Harvard Medical School.
I Tried Byte's At-Home Teeth Aligners, and I Never Thought I'd Be This Excited About Braces. (March 2021). PopSugar Beauty.
Orthodontic Treatment With Clear Aligners and the Scientific Reality Behind Their Marketing: A Literature Review. (December 2019). Turkish Journal of Orthodontics.
Invisible Braces 2022: 5 Companies That Offer Them at Home Without a Dentist Visit. (January 2022). CNET Health.
The Effects of Brief Daily Vibration on Clear Aligner Orthodontic Treatment. (November 2018). Journal of the World Federation of Orthodontists.