Good Vibrations

Dr. Nate here today and I wanted to discuss a new trend in Orthodontics.

Every profession chases their own ‘Holy Grail.’  It is the target at which progress attempts to hit.  Orthodontics is no different…but what IS our target?

Speed.  And more speed.  In fact, this is the most common question we hear…”How long do I have to be in braces?”  It is an appropriate question too.  Families want to get the maximum benefit with the minimum treatment time.  That not only helps the patient in terms of the final smile, but also minimizes the biggest risk of Orthodontics (think oral hygiene here).   

The quest for faster treatments has had many targets.  For example, bracket designs have been changed umpteen times and wires have been modified in both materials and sizes.  The result after roughly 75 years of tinkering…a slow, but definite decrease in treatment time.  Recently, however, speed has plateaued with traditional appliances.  More novel concepts are being developed and brought to market.

One popular product is focused on making teeth move faster with vibration.  They make a powerful assertion…use their device for 20 minutes a day and teeth will move up to 50% faster!  Amazing, right? 

But, as with anything else in the medical and dental worlds, research results are the ultimate proof of success.  As of me typing this on a very early Saturday morning there are 4 published articles on this topic.  Any guesses as to the consensus???

Three out of the four articles show absolutely no increase in tooth movement when using this vibrating device.  The one article with a positive increase (0.37mm) in tooth movement per month is barely more than the width of a human hair (0.2mm).  This apparent outlier actually has other very serious problems with their statistical analysis, and if that sounds like an interesting conversation to have let me know…

So, what is the point of all of this?  If you made it this far, here you go.  If you picture Orthodontics as a biological process (which it is), bone and bone cells are the arbiter of treatment time.  Logically, do bone cells “care” that they are being vibrated?  And is their response going to be to make the teeth move faster?  The research clearly states that the answer to both of those questions is a resounding NO. 

We obsess over the best research to determine whether new treatments are going to make a difference to our patients.  If we use it, then we can easily back up WHY.  If we don’t, well make your own conclusions.  Speed is undoubtedly important, but we NEVER compromise the quality of our treatments.  And the smiles are all the better for it. 

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