Orthodontics and Evolving Technology

Three-dimensional technology is transforming the world. The advances in 3D technology make it possible to bring even the most fantastic dreams to life. From concepts and designs to manufacturing, CAD/CAM technology has made inroads in virtually every field and industry, from automotive and aerospace to engineering and entertainment.

While some 3D technology applications are convenient or cost-effective, others have the potential to be life-changing, such as those in the medical and biotech industries. These are the fields in which 3D technology might just have some of the most exciting potentials.

It should come as no surprise, then, that 3D technology has become increasingly popular in the world of dentistry. Some of the most common uses of this advanced technology have been centred on restorations, such as crowns and implants. However, 3D technology is also being incorporated in orthodontics, too, where it can be used to straighten teeth and improve oral function.

3D Technology in Orthodontics

3D technology has the potential to revolutionise the way we treat patients. In the field of orthodontics, we are seeing a dramatic increase in the availability and uses of 3D technology. We can use it in a wide variety of diagnostic and treatment areas, including:

  • Intra-oral Scanning

    Anthony from Oasis Orthodontics using an intra oral scanning device.

  • Cone Beam Computed Tomograph
    And image generated by a cone beam computed tomograph.

  • 3D Printing
    A 3D printing machine used for orthodontics.A mold of a mouth generated by 3D printing.

  • Computer-aided Design and Computer-aided Manufacturing or CAD/cam

    Computer aided design bits in a box.
    With 3D technology, we have the power to craft completely
    personalised orthodontic treatment plans and appliances from beginning to end.

A Brief History of Orthodontics

People have been wanting straighter smiles almost as long as they have been smiling. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of orthodontics on 50,000-year-old human remains.

Egyptian mummies have been found with gold bands on their teeth. The Ancient Etruscans, Romans and Greeks all had their ways of straightening teeth, too. Still, it wasn’t until the 1700s the field began to be developed, and this was thanks to Pierre Fauchard.

Fauchard, who is considered the Father of Dentistry, created an appliance he called a bandeau. The bandeau was designed to fit around the teeth and push them into place. Fauchard also experimented with other methods of orthodontics with varying degrees of success and patient comfort.

The science of orthodontics continued to advance slowly up until the past few decades. Since the 1980s, however, the field has exploded with options. Today, prospective patients can choose from a wide range of options. Comfort, aesthetics, effectiveness and speed are all top priorities in modern orthodontic treatments. Many of the latest options in orthodontics are made possible by 3D technology.

Computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing or CAD/CAM.
How Do We Use 3d Technology in Dentistry?

CAD/CAM systems have been used in dentistry since the 1980s. These systems work by acquiring and digitizing data, processing the design, and manufacturing the final product. As CAD/CAM technology has evolved, so have its applications and popularity.

Digital intraoral cameras can be used to take digital impressions and capture high-resolution 3D models of teeth, gums and other oral structures. This allows us to avoid or limit the use of conventional dental impressions, which can be uncomfortable, imprecise and messy.

The images can be securely stored as part of a patient’s electronic records and shared with other care providers as needed. The colour and contrast can be adjusted and refined to better identify various structures as needed.

Once we create a digital impression, we send the digital model to the lab or the chairside in-office unit to design and manufacture your custom appliance, including:

  • Brackets and archwires
  • Expanders
  • Aligners
  • Retainers

We can plan, fabricate and robotically craft your custom appliances before applying them.

The Benefits of Advanced 3D Dental Technology

New technology can bring exciting new opportunities for orthodontists and patients alike. However, the real value of 3D orthodontic technology is in the benefits.

There are quite a few benefits for you, including:

  • No need for messy impressions
  • Less chair-time
  • Greater comfort
  • Improved accuracy

As your orthodontist, we also enjoy benefits that enable us to treat you more effectively, including:

  • The ability to transfer the scan directly to the treatment planning software
  • Interactive features that allow us to adjust and guide the movements of each tooth
  • CAD custom appliances for greater treatment accuracy and precision results

Although some studies have shown that 3D orthodontics can reduce treatment time, the jury is still out on how much time can be shaved off. However, experts do agree that the way robotic devices bend archwires results in the best crown alignment.

Are There Any Cons to 3D Orthodontics?

As with everything, there can be some cons associated with this technology.

Although the robotically bent archwires move crowns more precisely, they are not quite as precise when it comes to the tip of the crown and the root of the tooth.

The research on CAD/CAM brackets has also had mixed results. Initially, CAD/CAM brackets appeared to move teeth more quickly. However, follow-up studies revealed that the increased speed and treatment outcome was more likely due to the techniques used in indirect bonding.

3D Technology and Modern Orthodontics

The potential applications for 3D technology in modern orthodontics are exciting.

How is 3d Technology Incorporated Into Dentistry?

While 3D technology can play a role in virtually every aspect of orthodontics and dentistry, it is especially useful in the treatment planning stage.

 Before we can begin treating you, we need to carefully evaluate each patient’s anatomical structures and map their craniofacial features. This was once a fairly time-intensive process that required the use of multiple X-rays.

We needed to look at more than just the teeth. We needed to consider the teeth, the hard tissues such as the jaw, and the soft tissues. To fully and properly plan treatment, we needed a full and comprehensive picture of each patient’s face and oral cavity and structures.

Today, we can use modern 3D diagnostics to quickly scan anatomic data, process it and create a 3D model. This model can then be further developed and measured in all directions thanks to the power of 3D technologies.

The 3D model can be easily converted to a digital model, and we can give you a preview of your predicted results. You will have input on bracket positioning, tooth positioning and more as we create the perfect smile for you.

What Kinds of Imaging Systems Are There?

For routine orthodontic practice, 3D imaging techniques are extremely beneficial. They provide highly detailed diagnostic information and more comfortable alternatives to traditional impressions. Common 3D imaging systems include:

  • CT scans
  • 3D laser scanning
  • Vision-based scanning
  • 3D orthognathic surgery planning
  • Intraoral scanning
  • MRI and surface scanning
  • Video imaging or 4D scanning

Previously, we would use 2D images, such as panoramic X-rays and photographs and conventional plaster models, to track a patient’s care and progress. This method has obvious limitations.

Now, with 3D imaging and technology, we can quickly and efficiently store highly detailed diagnostic records with vast quantities of information about your smile and treatment experience. We can even share and compare this information instantly with your other care providers.

Who Can Benefit From 3D Orthodontics?

This technology can be beneficial for anyone who is a candidate for orthodontic treatment. Unlike previous technologies, 3D imaging systems are non-invasive, easy to store and easy to share. The entire system is user-friendly and can ensure precise results with patient-approved previews.

However, 3D orthodontic technology can be especially beneficial for those who have certain issues, including craniofacial anomalies and syndromes, such as cleft palates and lips. This group of patients tends to require long-term treatments beginning early in childhood and continuing throughout adulthood.

Having the ability to monitor and track their treatment plan and progress and share records with their entire care team can be particularly convenient for both you and everyone involved in your care.

 3D Dental Technology and CAD/CAM Appliances

While much of the 3D technology is used in the treatment planning phase, it does not necessarily end with scans and record-keeping.

Where Else Can 3d Orthodontics Be Used?

We can use 3D technology when crafting orthodontic appliances, too.

In the past, most CAD/CAM technology in dentistry was used to restore teeth. Dentists use CAD/CAM units to mill crowns and dental bridges right in their office for same-day restorations.

Now, CAD/CAM technology is being used in orthodontics to craft custom appliances, including: 

  • Clear aligners
  • Lingual appliances
  • Customized brackets
  • Indirect brackets
  • Robotically bent archwires

CAD/CAM technology enables orthodontists to improve treatment efficiency and quality as well as patient experience and outcome.

Because patients can visualize a preview of their projected results, they tend to have more informed consent, more realistic expectations and improved communications with their provider, too.

What to Expect From 3D Orthodontics

Once Dr Hopkins determines that you are a candidate for orthodontic treatments, we will explain your options and work with you to find the best one for your needs.

Before we can begin treatment, we will need to take a series of records. This is done digitally using a small, handheld intraoral scanner. The scanner will take many pictures of your teeth and gums as we work. There are no messy impressions or uncomfortable X-rays. As soon as the scans are taken, you can see them on the screen. We can adjust the colours and contrast so that you can see each structure more clearly.

These images will be used to plan your treatment, but we can also give you a sneak peek of what you can expect your new smile to look like. We create a digital model of your mouth and can alter the position of each tooth until you are completely happy with your new look!

Once everything about your projected new smile is exactly right, the software will perform the necessary calculations.

What Kind of Orthodontic System Works With 3D Dental Technology?

We can use CAD/CAM technology to craft both clear aligner systems and conventional dental braces.

As soon as your smile is planned and approved, we will construct your new brackets and archwires or clear aligners.

Many of the top orthodontic systems today use CAD/CAM technology for the most customised experience. The size, thickness and positioning of the brackets, positioning jigs, and other features can all be adjusted for a flawless fit. We can even customise the archwires.

When we bond the brackets to the teeth, we will use the scans we have already taken to determine the best possible placement for each appliance to deliver precision results for each tooth.

 DIY 3D Technology

As 3D technology becomes more accessible, more people are tempted to “do-it-yourself” orthodontic solutions.

Is DIY Dentistry Safe?

The answer to that question is an emphatic “no.”

Inexpensive alternatives to orthodontic treatments might sound like a great idea initially. Unfortunately, they might cost you your smile in the end. The field of orthodontics is not just about crafting beautiful smiles although that is an important part of our job.

We are also focused on creating balanced, healthy smiles. That means we need to move teeth and jaws without interfering with other oral structures. Each part of your mouth must work in harmony and support a healthy bite and proper facial shape.

Trying to close gaps or straighten crooked teeth without dental supervision could lead to tooth damage, infection, lost gum tissue or worse.

If you need orthodontic treatment, then you need an orthodontist. Orthodontists such as Dr Hopkins have been extensively trained in the specialty so that they understand the science of moving teeth and jaws. They have completed not only their dentistry degrees but also thousands of hours of specialist training in orthodontics.

Australian orthodontists must also complete:

  • Two years of clinical experience as a general dentist
  • A three-year university degree in orthodontics at an accredited university
  • Specialist registration in the field of orthodontics

Anthony from oasis performing scan work on a patient in a reclined chair.The Bottom Line on 3D Orthodontics

In the world of orthodontics, the use of 3D technology is still fairly new. Research is ongoing but results are quite positive. Studies have found that 3D and CAD/CAM technology can reduce treatment time as can indirect bonding. Researchers have not yet been able to determine if there is a single superior system. However, for most patients, the best system is the one most suited to their needs.

Oasis Orthodontics

At Oasis Orthodontics, we are committed to helping you discover your best smile ever. We work with our patients to find the best orthodontic solution for their needs for better oral function, easier dental hygiene and enhanced self-confidence. We know that when you look your best, you feel your best. Dr Hopkins offers a wide variety of treatments and appliances to help you reach your smile goals. Contact us today to learn more.

 

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