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Straight Talk On Invisible Braces

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Nov. 30, 2000 -- Forget the gunmetal-gray strapping -- it's not the only way to get straight teeth. That's essentially the marketing pitch behind a new type of orthodontic device that promises a straight smile while being easy on the eyes.

The Invisalign process uses a series of clear, plastic molds to gradually move the teeth. They're kept in place 24-hours a day -- except for when brushing, flossing, and eating -- and changed out every two to three weeks as the teeth straighten. The shape of the molds -- and hence the final position of the straightened teeth -- is determined by creating a three-dimensional "movie" of each patient's mouth. It simulates, from beginning to end, the stages the teeth will go through as they're adjusted.

The manufacturer of the system, Align Technology, Incorporated, of Sunnyvale, Calif., says the molds offer a more efficient way of straightening teeth, because at different stages in the process, only the teeth that need to be moved are moved. Still, that saves no time. The company says the Invasilign process works at about the same rate as conventional braces -- and can cost 20-50% more.

And there's something else: Children can't use them. The company says its computer imaging technology doesn't work for growing teeth.

So where's the market? Right here: "Twenty or 30 years ago we weren't treating too many adults," says Michael Rennert, DDS, an orthodontist in Montreal and president of the American Association of Orthodontists. Today, "I would say the average orthodontist in an urban practice probably has 20-30% of the practice in adults." That's compared to about 5% in the past, he says. Rennert adds the new adult market has money and is concerned with both how the mouth looks and works. But not all of them can use the Invisalign system. "It is certainly something that has a place in every orthodontist's armamentarium ... for select, minor adult cases."

Which does not necessarily mean the other adult cases have to stuff tire chains into their mouths. Rennert says today's conventional braces are smaller and less conspicuous -- and even work better than the old clunkers. "The wire is still there, but the [newer] appliances are much more comfortable," he says. "The traditional metal brace can be replaced by clear braces and braces from behind."

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

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American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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