Chapel Hill, N.C. — Many people have crooked teeth, gaps or overbites, but are reluctant to get braces. But several orthodontic options, including lingual braces, now straighten teeth without ruining a smile with visible wires and brackets.
Lingual braces attach to the back of teeth, a procedure made possible by robotic technology, says Dr. Paul Rossouw, chair of orthodontics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"Instead of taking an impression, (an orthodontist) will scan the teeth and that image will be downloaded on a computer," Rossouw said.
The information will then be sent to a remote plant, where robots bend the wire and attach brackets to match the patient's teeth. Additional wire can be formed to be added later as the patient progresses.
"It does make things more efficient," Rossouw said.
Lingual braces are more expensive than the traditional kind, but Naomi Hammeke said the results were worth it.
Hammeke, who had lived most of her life with a visible gap in her smile and an overbite, said she didn't want the metallic smile that comes with traditional braces, so she opted for lingual braces instead.
"People wouldn't notice that I (had) braces," she said. "I would do it again, and I would recommend it."
Clear corrective trays can also be used to straighten crowded and crooked teeth. The clear plastic pieces form to teeth, with corrections, to gradually push the teeth into a straighter formation. But for more dramatic orthodontic changes, traditional or lingual braces are a must.