The practice of moving and straightening teeth has been around for over 2,000 years, yet only a little over a century ago was this practice named orthodontics —the first specialty of dentistry. While general dentistry focuses on teeth and tissues of the mouth, treating tooth decay and repairing damaged teeth, orthodontics focuses on improving tooth and jaw alignment for both cosmetic and functional reasons. Orthodontists can be thought of as architects of the mouth, which not only adjust the teeth, but also manipulate the jaw, cheeks, joints, sinuses, and many bones and vessels on the face. An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in the movement of teeth as well as the movement of bones and requires two additional years of education after completing four years of dental school.
In the last couple of decades, technological advancement has made significant contributions to the field of orthodontics. Today, traditional braces are lighter, more comfortable, more effective, and more affordable than years earlier.
A major shift in the orthodontic field has been the introduction of plastic aligners as an orthodontic appliance rather than the traditional wire-based technology. The most well known name in this field is Invisalign®, developed by Align Technologies, who spent millions developing and testing their orthodontic device with practicing orthodontists. After many case studies, orthodontic practices worldwide, including McKenna Orthodontics, gave Invisalign® its endorsement.
For technology companies, the key to their success is making tools that are easy to use for specially trained practitioners and/or general practitioners. Like a hammer, Invisalign® is a tool. A hammer does not make the person who uses it a carpenter; years of building sound and effective structures makes a carpenter. Align Technologies has changed the field of orthodontics by certifying general dentists in a weekend course on how to order Invisalign. Align Technologies' Invisalign Provider Certification does not mean the dental provider understands or is trained in the treatment of dental malocclusions (imperfect positioning of teeth). In sum, although general dentists offer Invisalign, using the Invisalign® tool does not make a general dentist an orthodontist. In choosing an Invisalign® provider who is a general dentist instead of an Invisalign® orthodontist, the uninformed patient may inadvertently trust the orthodontic tool over orthodontic experience. The informed patient trusts the blending of both.
There are many key benefits for trusting your orthodontic needs with certified orthodontists. Orthodontists offer both traditional fixed braces and plastic aligner systems. In addition to traditional fixed braces, McKenna Orthodontics offers Invisalign® and another plastic aligner system called Orchestrate.
Some orthodontists, such as Dr. Stephen McKenna, have had experience beyond the 10,000-hour rule — a marker made popular by journalist Malcolm Gladwell. According to Gladwell, the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. Why is this important? Although the technology for straightening teeth has changed over the centuries and will continue to evolve, what has remained constant is the nature of the human body. The human body contains the same anatomy and the physical restriction as thousands of years ago, what has not changed is how the body heals during the teeth movement process. Moving a tooth is not difficult … continuously pushing on a tooth will move it. However, the challenge is having the tooth move in the direction and stop where it needs to stop. 10,000 hours leads to an instant knowing of each patient's situation or teeth structure. To paraphrase a 10,000-hour rule article: If you need heart surgery, would you go to someone other than a heart surgeon? If you need orthodontics, would you go to someone other than an orthodontist?
Straightening teeth is not heart surgery, however, orthodontic patients are not one-size-fits-all situations. Before beginning any orthodontic treatment, the diagnosis of orthodontic care is critically important. An orthodontist can provide the patient with more options than a dentist for the greatest outcome. Many dentists do not have all the materials that are needed for diagnosis. Invisalign does not require any x-ray pictures, such as the panoramic radiograph and more importantly a Cephalometric radiograph. These two x-rays are essential for determining a treatment plan in orthodontics, but a Cephalometric radiograph is rarely used in dentistry. The Cephalometric radiograph allows the orthodontist to see the projection of not only the movement of the teeth, but all the bones that adapt along with that change. These x-rays are vital for diagnosis. They provide the information for the orthodontist to determine the predictability and the stability of the final orthodontic result.
Again, McKenna Orthodontics offers fixed braces, Invisalign, and Orchestrate. With Invisalign, the dentist or orthodontist orders plastic aligners from the Invisalign laboratory. With Orchestrate, McKenna Orthodontics develops plastic aligners in its in-house digital laboratory while passing on the savings to its patients.
As an technology-based region, New England was the first to offer the dental specialty of orthodontics. McKenna Ortho Legacy chronicles this journey. Today, schools in the Western Massachusetts area such as Springfield Technical Community College and Porter and Chester educate students in the specialties of dental hygiene and dental assistant.