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scanning child's teeth with 3M True Definition Scanner

Turner Lim Orthodontists introduce a new scanner to improve quality & patient experience

Technology in orthodontics is always changing. And to stay ahead of the game, we recently invested in a new piece of equipment — a 3M True Definition Scanner.

“So what?” you might say.

Well, as orthodontists, there are two key things that concern us: patient experience and the quality of our work. The new scanner enables us to improve both these things.

Making an impression

If you’re getting braces fitted, we must first take an impression of your teeth — a 3-D model that enables us to measure tooth and bones sizes, etc., and determine the best course of treatment. Until recently this meant creating a mould.

The problem with moulds

It’s fair to say that having a mould taken of your teeth and gums can be messy and uncomfortable. It involves putting a tray filled with a substance called alginate into your mouth.  The alginate feels a bit like cake batter and can sometimes cause a gagging sensation. We hold the tray in place until the alginate sets, which takes about a minute for each of your top and bottom teeth.

Later, we pour plaster into the mould to create a model. Of course, having a physical model means we need somewhere to keep it. At the end of your treatment we’ll usually give it to you as a souvenir. However, we still accumulate quite a few models that need to be disposed of (see phone below).


Disposing of old moulds

The 3M True Definition Scanner

Our new scanner replaces the need for moulds — no more gagging! And it, ultimately, enables us to provide better treatment.

Because no moulds are needed, the whole process is much quicker and less messy. We use a scanning wand to take a scan of your teeth and gums, which takes just a few minutes. You’ll even be able to see the images on a screen to get a better understanding of what’s going on.

There is potential for inaccuracies with moulds. Digital impressioning, on the other hand, takes a video of your teeth and gums enabling us to keep a digital record. It’s like looking at a high-definition photograph, and it allows us examine your bite and view your bite from many angles and do lots of measurements. As you can imagine, it’s also much easier to send a digital file to others than a physical model.

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blue braces in child's mouth

I’m getting braces. Why must I have teeth removed?

Patients often ask why it’s necessary to have teeth removed when getting braces. Well, if possible, we prefer not to remove teeth—treament is faster if we don’t. However, to ensure your treatment is successful, the removal of some teeth is often recessary.

There are several reasons why you may need teeth removed when receiving orthodontic treatment. Here are three common reasons:

  1. crowding
  2. poor lip posture
  3. mismatched jaw size.

The teeth that most often need to be removed are premolars — the ones between your eyeteeth (below your eyes) and molars (the biggest ones at the back of your mouth).

Note: As orthodontists, we don’t usually remove teeth ourselves. Instead, we’ll refer you to your family dentist.

1: Crowding

Crowding is more common in modern humans than our ancestors. This is because, thanks to evolution, modern jaw bones have become smaller and are often too small for their teeth to fit.

You see, we don’t need as much force to eat our food like we used to. Our diet is softer — less gritty — so our jaws have become smaller and our teeth are subjected to less wear and tear.

With crowding, removing some teeth is sometimes necessary to get the best and most stable outcome long term for the patient.  Trying to keep teeth in cases where there is severe crowding,  can cause a patient’s teeth to stick out and also result in gum or bone loss.

In the case of mild crowding, expansion, rather than extraction, can be an option. (This is when the size of the patient’s arch is increased by moving the teeth outwards using what’s known as an expander appliance).

2: Poor lip posture

If you have poor lip posture, your face can have an unbalanced look. Lip posture is affected by the position of the underlying teeth. If your front teeth stick out, removing some teeth will enable us to move them back to improve your lip posture. If your lip posture is already good, failure to remove teeth could cause your teeth and lips to stick out, and we won’t be able to close your lips.

3: Mismatched jaw size

If your upper and lower jaws are mismatched, you will have either an under or overbite. With an overbite, your lower teeth could bite into the roof of your mouth. In the case of severely mismatched jaws, surgery can be the best treatment. However, if the mismatch is mild, or surgery is not an option for you, the removal of teeth can compensate and camouflage the jaw mismatch.

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old fashioned clock

How much longer before I can get my braces removed?

As an orthodontist, I’m often asked is “how long will my treatment take?” Well, like many things in life, the answer is not straight forward.

In reality, it’s hard to provide a definitive answer. I wish I could, but I don’t like raising expectations that can’t be fulfilled. With a lot of orthodontic treatment, until close to the end point, it’s impossible to tell when it will be finished.

Sometimes, treatment can be fast. For example, a small gap in your front teeth can be fixed within six months. However, orthodontic treatment usually takes between one-and-a-half to two years, sometimes longer. It depends upon the orthodontic problems we are going to correct.

The ingredients of a healthy smile

Of course, the whole point of getting braces is to create a healthy smile. Here’s what a healthy smile looks like.

  • jaws are properly coordinated to allow the teeth to function well together
  • teeth are aligned making it easy to brush and floss
  • lips close naturally because of correctly positioned incisors
  • roots are well set up and anchored in healthy gums and bone.

Creating a healthy smile doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to do it properly, so that the patient can get the best possible outcome.

What affects treatment time?

The length of your treatment depends on several factors:

  • The problem being fixed (crowding, poor lip posture, mismatched jaw sizes, etc.)
  • Your age (treatment can be faster with younger, growing patients)
  • Your cooperation
  • Your face type.

We are not all the same

The way you respond to orthodontic treatment will depend on your face type. For example, if you have a strong face type with powerful muscles, the bone will be denser and treatment will likely take longer. On the other hand, if you are receiving treatment for crowding (when there are too many teeth in your mouth), your teeth will move more easily into the spaces where teeth have been removed, which may result in a quicker treatment time.

It’s about below the surface

When you first get your braces fitted, you will probably see HUGE changes happen. Three months into your treatment, you might think things are going super well, and the job is done. However, don’t get too excited. Though the parts of your teeth you can see may well be lining up nicely, the roots below won’t be — to get the roots and everything else lined up nicely in your mouth takes time. And as the old saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait.”

Orthodontic technology is always improving. And today we now have sophisticated technology, such as Suresmile, that makes orthodontic treatment more efficient than ever before.

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