The coolest new innovation is 3D printing. Shows like Grey’s Anatomy have 3D printed organs and bones to heal people (on television, mind you) and now, a college student has 3D-printed invisible aligners to straighten his own teeth – and it cost him less than $60. Resourceful? Absolutely. A viral story? Indeed. Wise? Not on your life.
Amos Dudley is a 23-year-old student at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He documented the entire process of creating his own 3D sets of 12 plastic braces on his blog, where he also explains that some of the motivation behind his project – besides renewing his self-confidence by having straight teeth – is “sticking it to the dental appliance industry.” He wanted to prove that what he considers the pricey methods of smile alignment are unnecessary when you use your head and take advantage of the resources at your fingertips.
While Dudley carried out the “right” steps by making molds of his teeth and customizing his aligners, he had to meticulously research the proper process for conducting clear orthodontic alignment. But he’s a design student, with no greater knowledge of teeth, their movements, and the long-term effect of these movements than the next person. He might be brave, and 16 weeks of wearing his 3D-printed aligners may have straightened out his teeth, but Dudley may have also done himself irreparable harm.
Take It Slow with Orthodontics
Dentists go to school for years because there is an art to the work that they do, especially when it comes to aligning teeth. Getting the desired final result isn’t only about aesthetics, it’s about properly shifting the jaw and teeth and roots at the right time and in the right way so that a person does not experience pain, tooth loss, or permanent damage to their mouth. Typical Invisalign treatment takes between nine and 15 months to complete. Wearers will have between 18 and 30 aligners throughout the course of treatment, and each set of aligners is worn for about two weeks. This careful schedule is established in order to carefully and judiciously move teeth into proper alignment.
The 16 weeks that it took Dudley to align his teeth is exciting and no doubt enticing, but it isn’t smart. Moving a tooth too quickly can damage the bone and your gums, and if the tooth doesn’t end up in the right position that could interfere with your bite which will further damage teeth. Moving teeth too quickly – and without the supervision of an expert – also sets a person up for relapse. Neglect to wear your post-alignment retainers and your teeth will move back to where they originally were, and fast.
Dudley had previously been under orthodontic treatment in junior high, and he admits that he “neglected the upkeep.” Hence, his reluctance to smile often. Dudley claims that he is married to his treatment now and is 3D printing retainers to wear at night to keep his newly aligned smile in place.
Opt for Customized, Supervised Orthodontic Treatment
Dudley also has a unique situation in that he was treated once before by an orthodontist. His teeth had already been moved into their proper place – no doubt using a careful method that took into consideration the force needed to make the movements happen, the growth still to come, individual teeth quirks, etc. – before he relapsed and the teeth shifted back. With his 3D treatment, Dudley moved his teeth back to where they once were – a slightly easier task that shifting teeth from their lifelong position into a new place.
Not every person’s case will be so “simple.” In fact, some people do not qualify for Invisalign at all because of their unique bite problems. Every orthodontic treatment is customized to the person who is undergoing it, and only a dentist can tell you for certain whether you are indeed a candidate for Invisalign. While a brief and effective method of alignment like Dudley’s is no doubt tempting, the side effects can be disastrous if done poorly and without extensive knowledge of the mouth’s inner workings and the anatomy of your teeth and gums.
Talk to Dr. Carole Sherrod Jewell, a certified Invisalign provider at Red Bank Dentistry, to find out whether Invisalign is right for you. Financing programs and Invisalign promotions are both available –orthodontic treatment is affordable and accessible. Be good to your mouth. Choose the right treatment method and the right professional to guide you through it.