Health Team

Smile! There's a Way to Hide Braces

The idea of placing braces behind the teeth is not new, but it has not been very popular until recently.

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Many people live with crooked teeth, gaps or overbites because they do not like the way braces look, but they do not have to be seen at all.

Naomi Hammeke spent most of her life ignoring a problem with her teeth.

"I think just in the last couple of years, it started to bother me about my overbite," she said.

Hammeke asked Dr. Rose Sheats, an orthodontist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for the most unobtrusive solution possible. The idea of placing braces behind the teeth isn't new, but it has not been very popular until recently when a German orthodontist improved them.

"(It's) been very popular in Europe and in the Far East and is just beginning to gain acceptance in this country," Sheats said.

Each bracket is customized and molded to each tooth.

"(It) enables us to make brackets that are very thin in terms of thickness," Sheats said.

The brackets also take up less critical room inside. Sheats said the most uncomfortable area for patients is the tongue.

Hammeke said she sometimes has trouble saying words with a T. UNC is studying the adjustments patients have to make and how long it takes before the discomfort, speech or eating problems go away.

Sheats said patients with braces on the outside of the teeth face the same issues. The difference is Hammeke can work through it without a steely smile. She said she already noticed a difference since they were attached in the summer.

"My overbite is less pronounced, but there's still a way to go," Hammeke said.

Sheats said the newer type of lingual braces are also easier for practitioners to work with than the older type.