When it comes to healthcare of any kind, utilizing the newest methods and technologies available is of the utmost importance. This is especially true of orthodontic work, because newer practices result in many positive changes for the patients! At Salem Smiles, Invisalign and the iTero scanner are two of the best new technologies being utilized.
“I was trained in the very first East Coast training program for Invisalign in 1999, so I have been with the technology from the start,” said Dr. Sarah Shoaf. “I find it to be the ‘kinder, gentler’ way to move teeth, PLUS you take the aligners out when you eat, so there are no food restrictions, and you use your regular dental hygiene kit without any special tools to get around braces and wires. Most adults like to get their teeth straight, but do not want to look like they are 12 again, so this is a ‘stealth’ way of correcting your malocclusion without most people even knowing you are doing it.”
Though Invisalign has technically been around since the late 90s, the technologies and designs of the system are always advancing. “To me, wires and bands are the same since the 1950s and 1960s,” said Dr. Shoaf. “The last two big jumps in technology were to go to bonded brackets instead of bands for each tooth and the special nickel-titanium wires with ‘memory’ to move teeth more gently than stainless steel wires. The Invisalign technology is SO far ahead of wires and brackets, looks good while you are doing it, decreases the amount of time needed at the orthodontist’s office, does not involve losing favorite foods during treatment and is actually more kind and gentle to the teeth. I think in another 10–15 years, there will ONLY be Invisalign or its equivalent, as the wires and bands are just too hard and create too many hardships for patients. I would love it if I could have an entire practice with only Invisalign!”
Additionally, Salem Smiles understands the importance of the patient experience. If you have ever had an impression taken of your teeth using that pink goop, you know how uncomfortable it can be. It was a necessary evil back in the day, but now, the iTero scanner is changing that! “The iTero scanner is a way of making ‘impressions’ of your teeth without having to gag people with goo in their mouths,” said Dr. Shoaf. “By moving a light-emitting wand over the teeth, we can capture the size, shape and anatomy of individual teeth, as well as their relationships to each other, with more accuracy than the old ‘goo and plaster’ models could ever obtain. We are also able to send the scans digitally to laboratories for fabrication of Invisalign or other appliances, like sleep appliances, and not have to wait for the mail to get the models to the lab or worry about losing them. Again, it is MUCH more accurate than the old way, and much easier on the patients.”
Beyond helping everyday patients have a better experience, these new technologies help those with special needs to receive the dental care they need. “We have also found the iTero scanner a real boon for special-needs patients, many of whom would be unable to sit for impressions, but who do well with the scanner,” said Dr. Shoaf. “This provides an opportunity for special-needs children to have orthodontic treatment with Invisalign, without placing hazardous materials like the bands and wires in their mouths.”
In the digital age, these innovations allow doctors to store much more data, making it easier to treat patients, no matter where they may be when a problem arises, or if they need to come back years after their treatment is over. “We use our iTero scanner to ‘store’ our ‘models’ digitally, so we no longer have storage problems keeping the before and after treatment models of our patients for legal reasons,” said Dr. Shoaf. “And, if we need a ‘hard copy’ of the digitized models, we have an EnvisionTec MicroXL 3-D printer to make the models. These models are more accurate than the old plaster models and are less susceptible to breakage. When we finish treatment, we print a set of plastic models for the patient. If the patient loses or breaks a retainer, and returns an unbroken model to us, we can make a new retainer in one day to avoid a relapse of the orthodontic correction. This is also great for the ‘slacker’ who forgets to wear the retainers, has some relapse and can have a new retainer made over the original models to help move the teeth back into position. We tell our patients, retainers are for life—if you don’t wear them, the chewing and biting forces will cause the teeth to move back to their old positions.”
Dr. Shoaf is board-certified by the American Board of Orthodontics. Salem Smiles Orthodontics is located at 1063 West Northwest Boulevard in Winston-Salem. For more information, including how to schedule a free consultation, visit the website at www.salemsmilesortho.com, or call 336.725.5757.