Brace Yourself

March 3, 2008 8:32:43 AM PST
Getting straighter teeth may not have to be the ordeal it once was. Robotics are the newest trend in straightening teeth.

Braces are a right of passage for many teenagers. They can be a hassle, painful and time consuming, with trip after trip to the orthodontist. But what if you were told there's a way to get the whole process done in half the time?

Sitcom character Ugly Betty has a mouth full of unsightly metal that makes for great comedy. But, in reality, braces don't have to look like that anymore. Wires are thinner and brackets are tinier -- some are even invisible. But for many patients the main concern is how long they have to wear them.

"They're telling me in six months to a year I can have this all done," said Scott Hansen, Patient.

As a restaurant owner, 39-year-old Scott Hansen says his appearance means a lot. He had already been wearing braces for two years and was facing possibly two more. Then he found out about a new system called SureSmile.

SureSmile promises to speed the process up by incorporating computers, three-dimensional imaging and robotics into the process.

"Treatment times are probably 12 months, not 24-26 months, so it's been remarkable," said orthodontist Mike Hayward, DDS.

In suburban Palatine, Hayward has been using SureSmile for two years and claims it's helping straighten teeth anywhere from 25-to-50 percent faster without compromising results

So how does it work? On the first visit a specialized 3-D scan creates a precise picture of the teeth. The 3-D image is sent to the company's headquarters where a treatment plan is mapped out.

And then, instead of human hands bending wires , there is this: it's a robot that does the wire shaping.

Why machine over man? The robot's job is to follow the computer measurements and create wires so precise they can guide teeth more accurately. That, in theory, should speed up the straightening process.

With conventional braces, the orthodontist usually makes many adjustments to wires, and sometimes the teeth don't move as planned so more adjustments are needed. With SureSmile the custom wires are sent to the orthodontist ready to go. No adjustments are made and that can mean less pain. Plus, fewer wires are involved, and that results in fewer visits.

"It is huge and I think it will change the whole complexion of orthodontics," said Hayward.

Wheaton orthodontist Robert Weber says, hold on, it not time to give up on traditional orthodontics.

"A robot can only do so much," said Robert Weber, DDS.

Weber uses many of the latest, high-tech treatments, including iBraces. They go behind the teeth and also rely on computer imaging and robotics bending. He thinks it makes the process easier and, in some case, faster but says it's not perfect and doubts the human touch will ever be replaced.

"There is no reason to walk away from somebody who is not using the latest technology," Weber said, "because right now that technology is in its infancy."

Going the robotic route may cost more, but orthodontists say what's passed on to the patients should not be substantial. Because the newer technique requires less maintenance and time in the chair, there may eventually be a cost savings. One pitfall with the speculated wires is that if they break they can't be fixed until the company sends a new wire.

For more information
Michael Hayward


Barrington Office
133 Park Avenue

Barrington, IL 60010

Phone: 847.382.5588

Fax: 847.382.6044

Palatine Office
600 N. North Court, Suite 220

Palatine, IL 60067

Phone: 847.359.7980

Fax: 847.359.7585

-------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert Weber

210 W. Willow

Wheaton, Il




American Association of Orthodontics