Now a system, called SureSmile®, aims to increase precision in orthodontic planning with the use of computers and robotic manipulation of the archwire. Three steps are involved in the process.
First, a handheld scanner (called the OraScanner™) is used to create a three-dimensional computerized image of the teeth. The scanner measures light distortion rather than X-rays to create the images.
Second, the SureSmile software enables orthodontist to “see” the teeth and digitally simulate the results of different approaches. Once the appropriate avenue is selected, the software provides a template for the design of the archwire. The information is sent off-site to the company for preparation of the archwire.
Finally, robotic hands “custom bend” the archwire. Weiss says the SureSmile archwire is made from an alloy that can be bent under high temperature. Once formed and cooled, the alloy retains a memory for the final shape. The archwire is then shipped back to the orthodontist's office. Even if the wire is inadvertently bent during handling or placement, it will revert back to its original shape, and continue to retain that shape after placement on the teeth.
Weiss uses SureSmile after the first three to four months of orthodontic treatment. Dr. Weiss says the system enables him to precisely plan the archwire shape without the risk for minute human error or miscalculations. The adjustment calculations are so precise, most patients only need one archwire to finish their treatment.
He says the accuracy of the SureSmile system also speeds treatment times. Patients who normally would have braces for 18 months can often finish in less than 12 months. Those who normally would need 24 months are often finishing treatment in 12 to 14 months. Weiss says treatment planning with SureSmile is a little more expensive than traditional bracing. However, there is a trade-off in shorter total treatment time and fewer visits to the orthodontist.