Everyone wants their teeth to be straightened as fast as possible. There are many products available now that advertise they can straighten your teeth in 6 months or less (faster than regular braces) and you don’t need an orthodontist to fit or adjust them – a regular dentist will do. Some “faster braces” even claim to be able to deliver the same results as an orthodontist can achieve but two to three times quicker! (We orthodontists must be really rubbish then!).
If that were true then surely every orthodontist would be doing this! After all, treating people as efficiently as we can frees up time in the diary for us to see more patients. Better still we’d all be taking long holidays! It is important to know that there is no evidence to support this claim, nor do we know if there are any greater side effects of these types of treatment. We DO know that there is a safe limit to the amount of force you can use to straighten a tooth – Too hard and we can damage the tooth root irreversibly. That’s why orthodontists like to use the “low and slow” approach in the main. It’s the most efficient and safe way to do this and is based upon research and from the evidence available to us.
The biology behind tooth movement is the same regardless of how you do it, there is no scientifically proved way to accelerate the time it takes for teeth to move. Nature cannot be cheated.
What many of these “quicker” treatments do is what we Orthodontists would call a limited outcome treatment. It usually involves the front 6 teeth and only the bit you see above the gum, not the roots. This means we are not treating all aspects of the orthodontic problem.
It is, of course, in some cases completely acceptable to have a limited outcome treatment as long as the patient understand the limitations of the outcome/treatment and give their consent and agreement for this.
In order to judge whether a patient is suitable for treatment there are many things we have to consider: What is the patient’s desired outcome and can the treatment deliver this? Are the teeth and gums healthy? Is there enough room to straighten the teeth? Do they need more space? Where will the teeth be after they have been straightened? ………and so on
Patients also need to know the alternative treatment options – the pros and cons of each option, in order to decide what they want and what is best for them. Without this information how can you know whether a limited outcome treatment will work for you?
Full orthodontic treatment involves recognising the underlying problem that has led to the crooked teeth in the first place, planning the correct way to manage this and then moving the teeth (roots and all) to a stable position long term. It also involves long term maintenance of the result with retainers.
Limited outcome orthodontics is just making the front teeth straighter, not necessarily correcting the bite, prominence of front teeth or deep bite. Limited outcome treatments also need good life long retention as the position of the teeth is not optimal and could move out of line more easily.
So although “faster” treatment is the wish, maybe we should be looking for the best result we can get for our money done the safest way possible to help hold that straighter smile and protect our healthy teeth for the future.