by Dr. Stephen Tracey, D.D.S., M.S.
Even though orthodontists like me have dedicated much of our careers to improving smiles through the science and artistry of braces, I realize you, as a patient, want your orthodontic treatment to be a very small reference point in your life. Many patients would agree that aside from the goal of achieving a lasting, beautiful smile, patients’ orthodontic knowledge is on the lower side of the scale and primarily associated with fast treatment, discrete brackets and braces that are easy to keep clean.
Before undergoing treatment, it’s important to understand your options in order to get the most out of your investment. To address the primary concerns of my patients, I frequently recommend, and provide education around the benefits of self-ligating brackets. Though it’s the most advanced bracket system on the market, the intelligent design isn’t as complicated as it sounds. I’ve written this article with the goal of offering patients like you—who are interested in choosing an efficient and effective treatment path—a crash-course in self-ligating brackets, elaborating on how the bracket design not only increases comfort, but also helps patients maintain good oral hygiene while minimizing treatment time, all while delivering incredible results.
A Quick Description
For starters, I’ll provide a brief definition of self-ligating brackets and paint a picture of how the intelligent system works. A step-up from clunky old-fashioned braces, self-ligating brackets, such as Damon® Smile, use a breakthrough bracket design that not only eliminates the need for elastic bands, but also allows for a faster treatment, free of the painful procedures often associated with conventional braces.
So how do self-ligating brackets work? Instead of relying on elastic bands to secure the archwires in-place, as conventional braces do, self-ligating brackets harness the power of pressure systems to work harder (and smarter) than conventional braces do by keeping the archwire in place with a miniature, spring-loaded door. Additionally, self-ligating brackets reduce friction and eliminate the need for tightening, which results in a more comfortable experience throughout the duration of your entire treatment.
As a patient, you have every right to make sure your experience in braces is as comfortable as possible—free of persistent jaw aches and pains. The good news is that when I treat patients with self-ligating brackets, I don’t have to use elastic bands, and am able to use a much lighter pressure force which works to maneuver teeth with minimal discomfort. The progressive nature of these tiny, yet impactful, movements results in much less friction pressure, making for a smoother, more comfortable and efficient treatment. Additionally, by eliminating the elastic bands, there is no need to undergo the painful process of tightening braces when you visit your orthodontist.
Nobody likes the idea of having teeth pulled, but unfortunately, many patients treated with conventional braces are required to undergo extractions to create space for crowded teeth. However, because self-ligating braces use biologically-sensible forces, the need for tooth extractions, palatal expanders and headgear, is reduced significantly, as the system of brackets work with the body's natural adaptive processes to create space naturally.
In fact, a retrospective assessment that evaluated a number of clinical studies relating to the effectiveness and efficiency of self-ligating brackets revealed that patients treated with the innovative system experienced more comfortable, shorter treatments with fewer appointments required. The opportunity to offer this aspect of treatment comfort—and potential cost savings as a result of fewer appointments and required procedures—to my adult patients is invaluable.
A Clean Mouth is a Happy Mouth
As you know, keeping up with good oral hygiene is a big player for achieving a beautiful, healthy smile—especially during orthodontic treatment. By eliminating the need for elastic bands during treatment, self-ligating brackets make it much easier to maintain a healthy, clean smile. Here are a few reasons why:
Normal latex ties are notorious for easily trapping food. Without these types of elastic bands, you don’t have to worry about constantly looking in the mirror to make sure no leftovers are stuck in your smile
Elastic bands can easily become laced with plaque, which can be very difficult to clean and can potentially pose other health concerns. Without the bands, it’s more difficult for plaque to latch on
Latex has the potential to stain more quickly, which can lead to braces having an unsightly, discolored appearance. The lack of elastic bands on self-ligating brackets also keeps your smile looking healthy and stain-free throughout the duration of your treatment
In addition to keeping your smile food-, stain- and plaque-free during treatment, the tie-less, low-profile design of self-ligating brackets makes it much easier to maintain good oral hygiene and thoroughly brush and floss your teeth regularly.
Time is Money and Convenience is Key
While patients are interested in comfort and oral hygiene, the most frequently voiced concern I hear during consultations is in regard to the length of their treatment time. This is no surprise, we want you to be boasting a beautiful new smile as soon as possible, too! Luckily, the innovative, low-friction design of self-ligating brackets allows for fewer appointments and faster treatment periods—with research to back it up. A study of more than 200 patients revealed those who wore one manufacturer’s self-ligating Braces finished treatment more than six months faster and in seven fewer appointments, compared to patients who wore conventional braces, on average.
Besides saving time, self-ligating brackets can save you money! Why? With self-ligating brackets, there is a decrease in the number of appointments, which can eliminate additional treatment costs.
It’s All About You!
Remember that this is your investment in your own, unique smile; it should be as comfortable, effective and efficient as possible. While undergoing orthodontic treatment may sound a little scary at first, the end-result has health and beauty benefits that will last a lifetime. With self-ligating brackets, you don’t have to sacrifice the quality of the end-result just because you save yourself time and undergo a more comfortable process.
Additionally, since the need to extract teeth or use palatal expanders is minimized, self-ligating brackets tend to give way to a fuller, wider, more natural-looking smile. As a result, my patients have experienced improved facial balance, symmetry and aesthetics, fewer dark triangles in the corners of their mouths and improved profiles—which helps them maintain a youthful appearance through the years.
Hopefully this crash course on self-ligating brackets is a helpful start to preparing for an initial consultation or your final decision to move forward on the path to an improved smile.
Dr. Stephen Tracey, D.D.S., M.S. is an orthodontic specialist practicing in Upland, Calif. He has lectured in 22 countries on 6 continents, published extensively in the orthodontic literature, been a featured guest on such television shows as The Doctors and Best of L.A., and is a Visiting Professor of Orthodontics at the University of Ferrara in Ferrara, Italy. He is a proud Damon System provider.