When orthodontic patients finally get to experience the relief and joy of getting their braces removed, most have a few expectations: that their teeth will be straight, their bite will be adjusted, and their smile will finally be something they can be proud to show off. But while this best-case scenario is a common one, in many cases, patients get a little more than they bargained for. That’s because for some patients, the adhesive used to mount the braces brackets to the teeth leaves behind an unpleasant reminder of the orthodontic treatment in the form of tooth stains.
But a team of scientists in Valencia, Spain; London; and Sul, Brazil, have teamed up to develop an orthodontic adhesive that securely bonds braces brackets to the teeth without the telltale staining.
"Those stains you see on the teeth following braces treatment aren’t really stains," says Dr. Stephen Hill, a dentist in Allen, Texas. "It’s actually demineralization of the tooth, which is caused by improper cleaning and bacteria that accumulates during treatment."
According to Hill, demineralization is best described as almost a dissolution of the tooth’s enamel, the shiny first layer of the teeth. And the problem isn’t just cosmetic.
"When that enamel gets demineralized, it weakens your tooth’s defenses and makes that tooth more susceptible to cavities and decay," says Hill.
Treatment options for teeth that have begun the process of enamel demineralization include fluoride varnishes that help to re-mineralize the enamel. But those treatments take time and leave teeth vulnerable in the meantime, Hill says.
Protecting those vulnerable teeth is exactly why the international teams worked together to study three types of dental adhesive, each of which was formulated to help reduce demineralization. The most promising of the three adhesives contained a product that is no stranger to the oral health world: triclosan.
Used in everything from toothpaste to body washes, triclosan made headlines last year when it was removed from a popular brand of toothpaste in the United States following safety concerns. Currently, the ingredient is banned for use in over-the-counter products by the FDA, but approval in use by orthodontists may not be off the table if the manufacturers can prove the ingredient’s safety and efficacy in this adhesive.
"Triclosan does a great job preventing bacteria growth, so it seems like a natural fit. But it will depend on how it’s done on whether or not this will ever hit U.S. markets," Hill says.