Wearing braces is one of those rites of passage that nobody looks forward to - from the teens stuck wearing them to the parents stuck paying for them, most families would rather complete the process as soon as possible. Unfortunately, orthodontic treatments only go as fast as your teeth are willing to move. But a new spin on braces may help speed up the process.
They’re being called "smart braces," and they work with the help of batteries to move each tooth as needed, without the constant trips to the orthodontist.
"You still need an orthodontist to program them, but the braces themselves can make small movements and adjustments as needed between appointments," says Dr. Stephen Hill, a dentist based in Allen, Texas. "This can cut down on the length of treatment because you aren’t waiting four weeks to adjust the wires. It’s like having a personal orthodontist at home with you."
The smart braces were designed by a team of researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, and use phototherapy to enhance the regeneration of the bones of the teeth as they adjust.
According to co-designer Muhammad M. Hussain, Ph.D., M.S., the braces work via a small, rechargeable, state-of-the art lithium ion battery that was specifically designed to work with the braces. The battery was specially created after concerns about lithium ion batteries exploding during charging, such as the ones used in electronic cigarettes that have caused serious injuries.
"The battery the research team designed was created to omit the traditional silicone backing found on most lithium ion batteries," says Hill. "This allowed it to be much thinner and more flexible, and to allow room for the battery to be encapsulated in a biosafe chamber that makes it both safe for the mouth and safe from causing an explosion or fire."
The battery is also biocompatible, and its performance actually increases with the user’s body temperature up to 90 degrees Celsius, so there’s no worry about whether increasing body temperature will cause the battery to overheat.
Next up for the product is clinical trials, and then hopefully a debut to consumers, says Hill.
"I think this is a product that a lot of families will welcome here in America, because it can potentially cut down the duration of braces treatment, and that will make everyone in the family happier," he says.