While steps have been taken to straighten teeth for hundreds of years, the biggest steps forward have come in the last few years.
Dentists had known for many years that removable plastic appliances could move teeth.
Some even made simple plastic “aligner trays” for minor adjustments.
But a major step forward was the invention of Invisalign.
This was the brainchild of Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth, graduate students in Stanford University’s MBA program.
Wirth had traditional braces in high school and Chishti had adult treatment with traditional braces and now wore a clear plastic retainer.
Chishti noticed that if he didn’t wear his retainer for a few days, his teeth shifted slightly – but that the plastic retainer soon moved his teeth back to the desired position.
In 1997, using 3-D computer imaging graphics, they created the Invisalign method.
The dental profession – perhaps understandably – was initially skeptical because of their lack of professional dental training.
But, when Invisalign braces became available to the public in 2000, they proved extremely popular with patients.
Technology continues to push forward the science of orthodontics and techniques such as digital computer imaging are being used to make orthodontic treatment more precise.
For example, one system takes a detailed 3-D model of a patient’s teeth to help the orthodontist develop a precise treatment plan for tooth movement.
As companies develop more precise, high-tech materials and methods, orthodontic treatment will become easier, faster and more comfortable.