Space age wire–it sounds really complicated and high-tech, right? Well, it’s not! It’s actually a fairly simple concept that has revolutionized how teeth are straightened with braces. This new development, in addition to other improvements to the orthodontic practice, have made going through treatment easier than ever.
What Is Space Age Wire?
Space age wire is a nickel-titanium alloy originally created by NASA (Cool, right?). NASA developed this particular material to use for solar panels and antennae on their satellites, but it’s now being used in orthodontic practices. The best part? The metal reacts to heat. Space age wire is characterized by having shape memory and super-elasticity, which means it can be bent out of its original shape without breaking, and it will also eventually return to its original shape when heated up. Rather than reacting to the warmth of the sun, when used as braces, it reacts to the heat of the human body.
How It Works
How does this metal actually straighten teeth? The characteristics mentioned previously are crucial in its ability to get the job done. The wires start by being heated up and molded to the patient’s mouth. Once that is done, they’re cooled and then attached to the brackets on the patient’s teeth. The trick is, the wire is molded with a patient’s straighter teeth alignment in mind, so when it’s attached, it’s bent to their current alignment.
This is where the two characteristics of this alloy come into play. First, it doesn’t break or crack when it’s bent to the current tooth structure. Second, the metal’s heat activation gradually reacts to the heat inside the patient’s mouth. This means the longer the metal is in the patient’s mouth being consistently warmed up, the more it’s going to shift back to its original shape.
The pressure put on the teeth as the metal does this is strong enough to move the teeth at a steady and healthy pace. As it nears the end of its journey back to its original shape, the wire becomes stiffer and will hold that final shape until it is swapped out by the orthodontist. This process is then repeated until the teeth arrive at their desired places.
Why It Might Be Better
Space age wire can be better than standard metal used for braces for a few reasons. Because of the way space age wire functions, it does not require tightening, nor do the wires have to be switched out as frequently. This increases the time patients have between their checkups, which means less school and work missed for appointments. In addition to this wire being lower maintenance, it is also more comfortable for patients. The wire-tightening process can be relatively uncomfortable, so having to go through that less frequently can obviously be a great benefit. The heat-reactive and flexible space age metal is also hugely beneficial for one last reason: it has a tendency to cut down on treatment time. Most anyone going through an orthodontic procedure will want the fastest possible treatment time so they can see their new, perfect smile sooner rather than later. Space age wire is a great way to do exactly that!