Have you ever wondered why braces do not rust? Or how come they can be bent at will to practically any shape, without shattering or fraying? Have you ever just cleaned your braces and wondered; “what are these made of anyway?” If you have, you are in luck, because we will be talking a little about orthodontic alloys, the stuff braces are made of.
The basic formula
The alloy that braces are made of is a complex and intricate mixture of metals. It is mostly nickel and titanium, with traces of aluminium, silver, cobalt, manganese and palladium. Many mixtures exist, and some professionals tend to use materials like gold and silver because they do not react and are malleable, while palladium and other harder metals are also used. The most often sued is the cobalt-nickel-titanium alloy, and the archwire is made of slightly different materials, but all alloys are always hypoallergenic and completely biocompatible as they are designed to be in close contact with the human body, perpetually, for months at a time. To see a list of materials used in making orthodontic alloys, please refer to the sheet below from the awesome pocket dentistry site:
Recent discoveries have been made to make orthodontic alloys more durable, more responsive, easier to manipulate and harder to break. One such innovation came with so called smart alloys. These are alloys that can “remember” a shape they were put in, and go back to that shape at a given temperature. Some alloys, like one currently being developed in Waterloo, Ontario are capable of remembering multiple positions. These alloys are called MMM, or Multiple Memory Materials, and some very high paying customers, like the patent office of China and the one in the USA have shown great interest in these materials.
Why is this important?
The use of smart alloys or MMMs in dentistry means that the treatment will be more humane, less painful, and hopefully will take a shorter amount of time, as each bracket and wire can be programmed to use as much energy as needed. This means we can plan for individual teeth, and treat each tooth according to its need, making braces that are more effective.