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3 ways braces have changed since you were a kid

Not your mama's braces

From space age materials to computer analysis, these aren't your mother's braces - and maybe not even your big brother's. Today, your orthodontist can offer options that make the process of correcting your teeth efficient and comfortable, making a healthy smile easier than ever to achieve. Here are some of the ways orthodontic treatment has changed.

"Treatment today is certainly more efficient and predictable," says Robert James Bray, DDS, MS, an orthodontist and president of the American Association of Orthodontists. "Thanks to modern materials and improved techniques, patients usually don't need to come to the office as frequently as was previously necessary, so there's less time away from school for young patients and less time away from work for their parents."

1. New metal technology

Borrowing from the innovative technologies of NASA, many orthodontists today use heat-activated nickel-titanium alloy wires that apply a constant, gradual force to teeth when the wires are at mouth temperature. As compared to wires of a generation ago, which required frequent tightening as they stretched, nickel-titanium wires deliver gentle pressure. Patients appreciate the comfort. Today's wires also last longer, the reason fewer visits to the orthodontist are necessary.

2. Better planning

Advanced photography, x-ray and computer technology has enhanced orthodontic diagnosis and treatment planning. More complete information helps the orthodontist plan every facet of treatment.

3. New options for the style-conscious

Research, technology and patient demand have brought today's orthodontic patients an array of choices: silver braces, gold-colored braces, tooth-colored braces, braces that go behind the teeth, brackets in fun shapes, brackets that do not require rubber bands to hold them to the wires, tiny brackets or no brackets at all. Patients can shout out their orthodontic treatment or be as discreet about it as they please.

For those who choose to have fun with braces, they can select a variety of colors for the rubber bands that hold their wires to their brackets. Even the adhesive that holds the brackets to teeth releases fluoride, which helps keep teeth healthy.

If your smile needs a makeover, start looking into your options by consulting an orthodontist, a dental specialist with two-to-three years of specialized education beyond dental school. Choices abound nowadays for those seeking a healthy, beautiful smile, and there truly is an option for everyone. An orthodontist can help you achieve a smile that's good for life.

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