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Braced for Success

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Dr. Joseph Cornatzer says Six Month Smiles braces are not generally aimed at children. Cornatzer’s patient, Stella Gibson (left), is in her 70s and has benefited from the alternative to conventional braces. Photograph by Tom NutterDr. Joseph Cornatzer was a rarity among children. Perhaps it was his intellect. Perhaps it was his ambition, at a very early age, to pursue medicine in some form. Or perhaps it was this: “Growing up as a kid, I used to enjoy going to the dentist,” he says.

It may seem peculiar that a kid—that anyone, really—would actually enjoy visiting the dentist. But not to Cornatzer, of Dental Associates of Delaware in Hockessin. To him, the dentist didn’t represent dread or pain or anxiety. The dentist represented a certain type of magic, an individual who was able to conjure the spell of a bright smile and straight teeth.

“When I was younger, I lost my father to cancer. I knew I wanted to go into the health profession, but not as a physician,” says Cornatzer. “I didn’t want to deal with life and death. I wanted to work with people. I also enjoyed working with my hands, and I thought that the relationships I could build with my patients in dentistry would be really special.” And indeed they have been.

“One of the things you really appreciate is how happy your patients are with the final product,” says Cornatzer. “Seeing a smile on their face when I’m done, or seeing someone whose teeth you’ve straightened out is a wonderful feeling. You take the braces off and their eyes begin to well up. Even something as simple as re-contouring the gums with a laser makes a lot of patients say, ‘Wow. I never knew that’s what my teeth should look like.’”

That level of astonishment has only become more remarkable with the application of new advancements in dentistry and orthodontics that include Six Month Smiles and Invisalign. “Moving teeth,” says Cornatzer, “isn’t what it used to be.”

Six Month Smiles

It’s pretty well accepted in the orthodontic community that braces are the most commonly used and effective method for straightening a patient’s teeth. What Six Month Smiles has done is take that tried and true technique and, well, tweaked it. For anyone over 16 years old, it’s a fantastic alternative to conventional braces.

“This is for patients who are comfortable with their bite and are able to chew their food, but have some crowding or spacing issues and are not happy with their smiles,” says Cornatzer. “We can treat most of those cases in six months.”

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Using special nickel titanium, tooth-colored wires and braces, Six Month Smiles technology exerts a light, continuous force to gently move the teeth to the desired position. The procedure is often less time-consuming and expensive than conventional braces.

“The nice thing is that we can move quicker than with other braces,” says Cornatzer. “The nickel titanium wires have elastic memory, so they want to go back to perfect arch and form, so they’ll continue to pull the teeth in that direction with light force. In other words, they are always working in the mouth.”

Cornatzer also likes to remind people that braces are not only beneficial for cosmetic reasons. When teeth are crowded or misaligned, it can often lead to problems with effective brushing and flossing. 

Invisalign

Another option for adults looking to better their smiles (and their dental hygiene) is Invisalign, which utilizes a series of custom-made aligner trays made of smooth, comfortable, and virtually invisible plastic that patients can wear over their teeth. These aligners gradually shift teeth into place, based on the precise movements the dentist or orthodontist plans out. There are no metal brackets. No wires to tighten. It’s simply a matter of popping in a new set of aligners every two weeks until treatment is completed.

“Invisalign is ideal for someone who has been through traditional orthodontics as a kid but maybe didn’t wear the retainer and had a relapse from not being compliant,” says Cornatzer. “This is for young-adult or adult patients who don’t want to go through traditional braces again. For most of them their bite is correct, but they have some crowding or spacing problems.”

Cornatzer cautions that the treatment will only be as quick and successful as a patient’s dedication to keeping the trays in when they’re supposed to.

“One thing that can be very challenging with Invisalign is patient compliance,” says Cornatzer. “If patients aren’t wearing their trays, the teeth aren’t going to move. I’ve seen patients with Invisalign where the treatment should have only taken eight months, but because he or she didn’t wear them regularly, two years go by and the treatment still isn’t done.”
 

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