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Wednesday, 5 September, 2001, 01:19 GMT 02:19 UK
Invisible teeth brace launched
Invisible brace BBC
The invisible brace gradually corrects the position of the teeth
An invisible brace that takes the embarrassment out of dental care is being launched in the UK.

The new system, called Invisalign, uses a series of clear, plastic aligners which fit completely over the teeth.

An aligner is worn for two weeks, thrown away and the next one in the series fitted, so that the teeth are gradually straightened.

The treatment, developed by US company Align Technology, takes between six to 18 months - a period similar to wearing traditional braces.

It will be available exclusively from UK orthodontic group, OrthoWorld PLC, which owns a national network of state-of-the-art dental practices.

Initial consultation

During an initial consultation, a patient will be prescribed the treatment, and a specialist orthodontist will also make impressions of their teeth, take X-rays and create a treatment plan.

Brace BBC
Traditional braces can make some people feel self-conscious
These are sent to Align's US laboratory, where computer imaging produces an accurate model of the teeth and the intermediate stages needed to achieve the desired final position.

The specialist orthodontist in the UK checks the virtual treatment via a secure internet site before the series of aligners are made and sent.

After the first fitting, the patient returns to their orthodontist every six to eight weeks for a check-up.

The virtually invisible aligners can be removed, making it easy for the patient to brush and floss as they are not restricted by the wires or brackets found on traditional braces.

Patients can continue to eat and drink what they want.

The treatment is currently available in the US and Canada and has been approved by the US Department of Health.

Les Joffe, a Harley Street orthodontist, said: "The moulds look very flimsy, but they move the teeth little by little from an incorrect position to a correct position."

Teeth irregularities

Jonathan Sandler, spokesman for the British Orthodontic Society, was sceptical that the new technology would be as effective as more traditional methods.

He told BBC News Online: "For a very small number of patients who have minor irregularities with their teeth, but are totally put off by the thought of visible braces this may offer a solution.

"Most malocclusions (tooth irregularities) would be more efficiently and effectively treated by conventional, but more visible, means. They give full 3D control over the teeth."

A survey has revealed that 70% of people would avoid wearing a traditional brace, mainly because it would make them feel self-conscious.

The survey also found that four out of 10 people think they have bad teeth, and would change them if they could.

Some 11% are so ashamed of their teeth they have covered their mouth when talking and 19% feel uncomfortable smiling.

See also:

14 May 01 | Health
Four year wait for brace
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