Local dentist offers high tech way to better smile

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 17, 2005

Many adults can remember the days when they teased fellow classmates with nicknames such as &uot;Brace Face&uot;, &uot;Metal Mouth&uot; or &uot;Tin Grin&uot;.

These days, however, braces have earned a certain cache among teens. After all, a &uot;tin grin&uot; does mean you’re going to have a great set of nice, straight teeth to look forward to. Who wouldn’t want that?

For many adults, however, that mouth full of metal holds less appeal. A 20-something sales representative who wants to look their most professional, for example, wouldn’t want to be mistaken for an adolescent hoping their dream guy will take them to the prom.

For some, the best way to get straighter teeth and a healthier mouth in their not-so-tender years just might be the &uot;invisible&uot; way – via Invisalign Aligners.

Over 100,000 patients have already been fitted with the system since its inception a few years ago.

Dr. Robert Martin, Jr., DMD, of Greenville, is a practitioner of general dentistry and family dentistry who also performs some orthodontic work.

He was among the first group of dentists (as opposed to orthodontists) specially trained to fit patients with the Invisalign System. Approximately three years ago, Dr. Martin brought the custom-made, removable, nearly invisible braces to the Camellia City.

He is currently the only dentist in the area offering the Invisalign System (Dr. Robert Crosby is preparing to offer the straightening system later this year).

For adults only

&uot;Adults who never had braces as children or those who have suffered orthodontic relapse often find the Invisalign Aligners work really well for them,&uot; says Martin.

Notice the stress is on &uot;adults.&uot; Martin does not fit anyone under the age of 16 with the new-style braces, nor does he recommend their use with children.

&uot;Basically, you have to have your second molars in before you even qualify to be fitted with Invisalign. And, personally, I believe it’s best to fit a child with traditional metal braces. You have more latitude for fine-tuning the adjustment, and you simply have more control, with metal braces than you do with Invisalign,&uot; explains Martin.

He practices what he preaches

&uot;All three of my own children had traditional metal braces. And you know, when all the other kids have them, it really doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore,&uot; says Martin, adding, &uot;Now if you’re a teen about to go away to college or an adult working in an office, regular braces might not seem so cool.&uot;

Now you (don’t) see it

Martin’s Invisalign patients often wear the Aligners totally undetected by co-workers and friends.

&uot;I had one patient who had been working right next to another guy in his office for a couple of years and his co-worker never even realized he had braces. I also have a tech in my office, Dawn, who wears them. You should see the amazed look on patients’ faces when she finishes explaining how to care for the Invisalign Aligners and then says, ‘And I’m wearing them right now.’ They are that hard to see,&uot; says Martin.

Straightening with ease

So, in addition to their near-invisibility, what are the other benefits of the Invisalign Aligners versus traditional metal braces?

&uot;They are removable, so you can brush and floss your teeth just like you would normally do. You can also eat anything you want to without worrying about stuff getting stuck in your braces.

&uot;You also don’t have to worry about the pain of, for example, getting your lip caught in the braces – that can hurt – or having an allergic reaction to the metal. They are definitely more comfortable. And your gum health often improves during the time of treatment,&uot; says Martin.

Besides the cosmetic benefit straighter teeth offer, there are also health benefits to be derived from using the Invisalign Aligners, including healthier gums, easier cleanings, less stress on the supporting bone and jaw joints, and, frequently, improved chewing and speech. &uot;Straightening your teeth can actually improve your overall well-being as well as your confidence level,&uot; Martin adds. The dentist says he has fitted patients ranging in age from their early 20s to their 60s and 70s with the system.

An ‘amazing’ process

The dentist says the computer technology involved in creating the Aligners for each patient is &uot;amazing.&uot;

&uot;This is something we wouldn’t even have dreamed of being able to do 20 years ago.&uot;

Initially, an impression is made of the patient’s teeth at Dr. Martin’s office. The impression is then sent into Align Technology where it is scanned into a computer.

The computer proceeds to &uot;slice&uot; the image into many parts, each showing a slight change of tooth movement. This computer simulation illustrates how the custom-made Aligners gradually shift the teeth into proper alignment.

Then, actual physical models, which correspond to these image &uot;slices&uot;, will be created by Invisalign and sent back to the office to be fitted to the patient’s teeth. A composite is put on selected teeth to help the Aligners maintain a grip.

The Aligners, which are worn 24 hours a day except during meals, brushing,and flossing, are changed every two weeks, with follow-up visit to the dentist or orthodontist every six to eight weeks.

The length of time the Aligners will need to be worn varies from person to person. &uot;Every case is different. Some of my patients have only had to wear their Aligners for 6 months and others for as long as two years.

&uot;It just depends on how much correction needs to be done. Because they are more or less invisible as well as comfortable, people aren’t nearly as anxious to get them removed, either,&uot; explains Martin.

And for those wondering if the Invisalign System is more expensive than conventional braces, the answer is &uot;yes&uot;, says the dentist.

&uot;It’s the high-tech computer technology involved that makes this process more costly.&uot;

Conventional braces generally run approximately $3,800 in total cost. The cost for Invisalign Aligners runs a little over $850 for the initial workup and dental impressions. There is an additional fee of $2,800 to $3,500 for the Aligners, depending on the severity of the case. That brings the grand total for the clear braces to somewhere between $3,650 to $4,350.

Finance plans are available to help with those making the investment in their smiles, the dentist says.

Not for every problem

While the clear braces work for many cases of malformed bites and crowded or protruding teeth, they are not the answer for every adult seeking a solution to a misaligned smile.

&uot;In cases of extreme crowding, for example, your traditional orthodontics are going to work better. Sometimes you need to both shift and grip the teeth in a way metal braces can do and the Invisalign System cannot do. Some cases simply don’t work with Invisalign,&uot; the dentist cautions.

While it is not the answer for everyone, for those whom Invisalign can be successful, it’s &uot;a wonderful thing,&uot; says Martin.

&uot;For example, it’s great for adults who wore braces as teens but did not wear their retainers as they should have, and need to have things shifted back into place.&uot;

Dr. Martin offers a free screening for those interested in looking into whether or not Invisalign is right for them. Once a patient is approved and decides to go with the program, a complete orthodontic work-up with photos, models and X-rays is in order – putting the patient on his way to a clearly better smile.

Dr. Martin’s office is located in Interstate Plaza.

Office hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. You can contact his office at 382-9610.