Braces treatment: The insider’s guide to how things have changed

About to launch your braces treatment journey? Feeling dazed and confused? It’s completely understandable. Knowing all the braces treatment options can be a real challenge. This is especially true if you’ve heard of – or can only recall – the ‘bad old days’ when there weren’t many braces treatment options.  Everybody has heard a braces treatment horror story at some stage. As an orthodontist, I have heard and seen plenty! Mainly from parents who are seeking braces treatment for their child. In many cases, they’ve had their own braces treatment experience, usually as a teenager. And usually, the experience wasn’t great. It leaves them feeling concerned their child’s braces treatment will be as difficult as their own. The downside to this negativity is it can really affect the experience of a child or teenager who is about to commence treatment. When this happens, I like to back things up with the parents and point out a couple of facts.Firstly, their braces treatment usually occurred 20 or 30 years previously (yes, it really was that far back!). The other point is, braces treatment has come a long way in that time. There are now significantly more options available to people, especially if they invest in an early assessment between the ages of eight and ten years.Want to explore just how far braces treatment has come? Let’s check it out.Getting your braces treatment is an ‘experience’, not a choreBraces treatment now is very much about having an experience, not about it being a chore.Having been an orthodontic patient myself, and now listening to my patients, I know people want:

  • The orthodontist to be more consultative, kind and understanding
  • A fun experience that happens in a nice environment
  • Treatment to be faster
  • There to be less pain and discomfort
  • Braces to be more aesthetically appealing.

Tick, tick and tick.I am happy to report that orthodontic treatment provided by a good orthodontist now ticks most, if not all, these boxes.Orthodontists listen, share and careWhere previously an orthodontist might have been more directive, now patients and parents find the orthodontist is more open and consultative.This shows up as better communication techniques. For example, the orthodontist will involve the patient discussion around the most ideal braces treatment option. Whereas in the past, she may have simply told them the treatment they’d be having.For patients this is a bonus. Now, orthodontists are generally more consultative, kind and understanding. Patients are encouraged to participate in the discussion around their braces treatment because orthodontists know the more engaged the patient is, the greater the success of the braces treatment.Visiting the orthodontist is fun [we know, hard to believe, but true]Braces? The orthodontist? Fun? Yes, it’s possible! I know many of my orthodontic colleagues strive to create a genuinely satisfying and fun environment for patients. That includes for both adults and children receiving treatment.In our practice, we talk a lot about the treatment journey and enjoying that, every step of the way.This might be a mindset shift for some, however, to get the very best out of any braces treatment, the right attitude is an essential ingredient.The best way to achieve that mindset? Parents need to remember the investment in their child’s smile is one which lasts a lifetime. The child or teenager with the braces needs to learn the value of enjoying the journey, not just the destination.Braces treatment is fasterIt’s completely understandable for people to want orthodontic treatment to go faster. Fortunately, with advancements in technologies and techniques, this is possible for some people. Treatment times for certain braces options are definitely shorter than they once were. However, be aware treatments advertising a quick fix are not necessarily the answer for you. As with all braces options, their effectiveness relies in large part on the clinician who is providing the treatment. Remember, with braces treatment, you buy the skills of the orthodontist, not the braces themselves.Braces treatment is less painful and uncomfortablePain and discomfort associated with orthodontic treatment is very subjective. Everyone experiences it differently. That said, in the past, braces treatment was literally, and objectively, more unpleasant and uncomfortable for patients. It’s a personal view, but I think this is because the clinician may have been less attuned to a patient’s experience of the treatment, as well as the techniques that were used. When I am treating a patient, I give them the opportunity to let me know how they feel. For example, he can let me know by raising his hand and I can stop what I’m doing and adjust my approach.I know a lot of dental and orthodontic colleagues do the same. We feel this is important so patients feel in control and empowered. We also make sure our patients understand they can contact us any time with their concerns or orthodontic emergencies. This helps to manage both at appointments and throughout the treatment period.Braces look nicer! [yes, this is also true]Back in the day, there were few choices when it came to braces treatment. There was neither the range of braces treatments, nor the materials used for brackets, wires and adhesives that are available now. With technological advances, braces are smaller. They are now made with different materials, such as clear ceramic. Wires are made from nickel titanium and steel, which can often be coated so they’re tooth coloured. The advancement in clear aligner technology, such as Invisalign, has provided an invisible alternative to traditional orthodontic treatment too.Research conducted into growth and development of children has made growth modification treatments available too. Now there is much less need for the extraction of teeth, as growth patterns can be identified through early assessments, x-rays, and 3D models.Where are you in the braces treatment journey?So there is no way that braces treatment is all bad. In fact, it’s pretty much all good, right. We understand the braces treatment journey can be daunting, especially if you haven’t started yet. But it’s good to know things have changed enormously. And that it can be fun. It can be painless. And it is definitely rewarding. We pride ourselves on walking alongside our patients while on their braces treatment journey and we’d love to do that for you too.Dr Sarah Dan is an orthodontist and an advocate of early interceptive assessment to help improve treatment outcomes for children. Through her experience as a clinician and having orthodontic treatment as an adult herself, Sarah truly understands the orthodontics from the patient’s perspective. She ‘gets’ it and has developed her unique 5-Step Process to help patients navigate the treatment journey to a confident, beautiful smile at any age and stage of life.

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