What Orthodontics Might Look Like In 50 Years?
The last fifty years in orthodontics has brought huge changes to the technology used to straighten teeth, including the introduction of Invisalign, but also simply in making metal braces less painful, more effective, and less noticeable in the mouth of the patient. This means that the next fifty years are just as likely to generate fundamental changes to the nature of orthodontics. Maybe in fifty years, no one will be wearing the metal braces that were so common among their grandparents’ generation. Here are some speculations as to what orthodontics might look like in 50 years.
We already have technology that can shorten treatment by as much as half. Treatments that used to take eighteen months might now only take nine months. In fifty years, technology might be available that shortens treatment time exponentially. A person might be able to get their teeth straight in one or two months. This might sound outlandish to us now, as the average person has to wear their braces or Invisalign for eighteen months, but as more and more patients push for faster and faster ways to move their teeth, we could see technology that is specifically designed for that purpose.
The technology for straightening the teeth itself is probably going to change drastically, too. Systems like Invisalign might become even more common than they are now. They might become so common than just about no one actually has anything attached to their teeth in order to straighten them. And while metal braces might continue to be the treatment of choice for patients with complicated cases, it’s far more likely that treatments like Invisalign will continue to develop to the point that they can tackle just about any case, no matter how complicated.
Technology will likely also trend towards making teeth straightening slimmer and less noticeable. Continuing to use plastic devices, as is becoming the norm now, will likely be normal. Even if there are still systems that require brackets to be attached to teeth, it is more and more likely that these brackets will be completely clear.
Patients are likely going to continue to push for straightening treatments that are clear. Invisalign was a huge change in the industry when it first started to gain popularity, largely because it made it possible for patients to get straight teeth, without having to worry about being mocked for their metal braces. It started as a treatment method only for adults, but has quickly branched into treatments for teenagers, too.
In the next fifty years, we might be looking at technology that helps teeth grow in straighter, instead of simply trying to straighten them once they have grown in. If you can get your teeth to grow in straighter, you do not need any kind of metal braces or plastic aligners to push your teeth to be straighter. Technology in the future could make it possible to individually straighten each tooth as it comes in, providing the patient with a perfect smile as soon as they have their full set of adult teeth. This could mean a far shorter and more effective treatment than what is currently available today, as well as all of the benefits that come along with having straighter teeth from a younger age. This means fewer oral health issues in the long run. If the teeth are never crooked in the first place, there is no possibility of the patient ever developing the health issues that come along with having teeth that are crowded, have large gaps between them, or are simply misaligned. This could mean fewer cavities, less gum disease, and a reduction in the diseases that are connected to poor oral health.
Over the next fifty years, the patients will probably start to change, too. In the past, the most typical patient for an orthodontic procedure was a person in their mid teens. Today, orthodontic patients span all age groups, from pre-teens to teenagers to adults. Gone is the common misconception that you have to be a teenager in order for your teeth to move properly. Today, many orthodontists might actually treat mostly adult patients, with only a few teenagers and preteens. In the future, it is likely that the trend will continue towards treating mostly adults, with still a large number of teens and preteens being treated.
Many of today’s adults grew up in an economic climate that might have made orthodontic treatment impossible when they were teenagers. Now that they are adults and have their own disposable income, they are more likely to want to get braces. This trend might continue in the future, with more and more people waiting until they have their own stable job in order to straighten their teeth.
This could, of course, completely change if it is possible to straighten teeth as they are coming in, rather than after they have totally grown in and set. In any case, the misconception that an adult’s teeth are too “set” to be moved using an orthodontic treatment is likely going to continue to dissipate.
On another hand, we might start to see a younger and younger brood of patients, as fewer and fewer of those patients have to wait for their wisdom teeth to come. As humanity evolves away from needing this wisdom teeth, fewer and fewer patients will be born with them and orthodontists will not have to decide whether to ask patients to have them removed before treatment or wait to start a treatment until after they have grown in.
Hi there, my name is Brendan Johnson, and I am really curious to learn more about the future of orthodontia. I recently graduated as a bioengineer and I work in biotech (not related to dentistry in any way), but I am interested in the possibilities to reduce costs and time of treatment for patients. In one of your articles, you discuss the future of orthodontics, and specifically the possibility to straighten adult teeth as they grow in. I’d love to learn more about this – do you have any literature/research sources you can provide me to dig into this topic? Thank you very much in advance.