The Teeth Straightening Revolution

A look at orthodontic systems through the ages and what we offer our Eltham patients today.

For those of you who don’t know what orthodontics are, it is simply a term used for the treatment of crooked and uneven teeth, probably better known to most of you as ‘braces’. This is a word that patients tend not to want to hear. Orthodontic treatment, whilst often necessary, has long been associated with an unsightly and sometimes uncomfortable appliance being worn. All too often, patients have declined this treatment and just put up with their crooked teeth.

There are many reasons that you shouldn’t do this. Aside from any aesthetic concerns, crooked and uneven teeth are much harder to keep clean. Where teeth overlap or push close together, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to clean between them. Unfortunately this is an area where a lot of tooth decay is likely to start. Given this then, let us take a look in more detail at orthodontics and the options that we have available at our Eltham dental practice.

A brief history

As long ago as 3000 BC, it appears that people were concerned with their appearance. Excavations in Egypt have revealed mummies with catgut wrapped around teeth and rudimentary metal bands used to stabilise them. How successful this was we can only guess, but it’s safe to say that patients would certainly turn their noses up at these methods today!

Similar methods were used following this period and gradual improvements were made over time, although they were a long way off where we are today. Things started to change around the start of the 20th century though when an American dentist called Edward Angle, categorised the various types of malocclusions (crooked teeth) and also introduced the idea
of using bands and wires attached to the teeth in order to straighten them. These would evolve over the years into what we commonly now know as ‘dental braces’.

Further refinements have been made over the years and these days, much finer materials are used, making them less cumbersome. Some aesthetic improvements have also been made by using teeth coloured materials that help them blend in and be less noticeable. The biggest ‘game changer’ though has been the introduction of clear aligners, such as Invisalign which we have available at AR Smiles. We will discuss this revolutionary treatment shortly.

What is wrong with braces?

The biggest challenge for people who need to wear braces has been a combination of their often high visibility and also the practical aspects of wearing them. Some discomfort is not uncommon and eating certain foods can present a challenge for the traditional ‘wire and brackets’ type of braces, also sometimes referred to as ‘train track braces’. This means that some wearers would avoid some of their favourite foods simply because they had become too difficult to eat.

From an oral health perspective, there is an increased risk of food and bacteria becoming trapped in the brackets and the wiring. As this can be difficult to remove, there is an increased risk of problems like tooth decay and gum disease. Given the length of time these sometimes need to be worn for then, there are certainly challenges to be overcome if you
wear traditional braces.

How do modern orthodontics work?

Although we do sometimes use wire and bracket style braces for some minor aesthetic orthodontic issues, these are usually only used where the treatment period is relatively short; perhaps just a few weeks. This is generally where there is a slight issue such as a slightly overlapping front tooth that is spoiling a smile. Where these are used, they are of a modern
design and use teeth coloured materials. For more general teeth straightening, we recommend that you consider Invisalign orthodontics. This is a revolutionary technique for teeth straightening and offers not only an effective way to straighten your teeth, but one that is widely considered to be more comfortable and convenient as well.

With no wires and brackets to adjust, these transparent trays that fit directly over your teeth should prove to be more comfortable. They are made from impressions and scans that are taken of your own teeth for as comfortable a fit as possible. There may be a little initial discomfort and additional salivating when first worn but this is a natural reaction of the body to a ‘foreign object’ being put into the mouth and will soon revert to normal.

In addition to the comfort factor, the trays are made from a fine transparent medical grade plastic that provides strength but also a high degree of discretion. In fact, most people won’t even know that you are wearing them unless they look closely.

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of Invisalign though is the patient's ability to easily remove them when they are eating and also for cleaning their teeth. This is great news as it means no more avoiding certain foods and also a reduced risk of tooth decay or gum disease caused by wearing them.

Don’t try this at home!

Coming full circle back to the start of this article, it has come to our attention that some teenagers have been promoting DIY teeth straightening methods using a series of elastic bands, on social media. The ancient Egyptians may have had an excuse for this type of practise, but with modern dentistry, we don’t. This, quite frankly, is a very unwise and dangerous thing to do. Do NOT attempt it and if you are unhappy with the way that your teeth look, please consult your local dentist for advice.

If you would like to discover more about Invisalign or have any dental issues, cosmetic or otherwise, we are always happy to help you. Our friendly dentists look forward to meeting you. You can contact AR Smiles by calling us on 020 8856 7759.

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Site last updated December 2023
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