A kid's dream come true: Braces in half the time?

February 5, 2010 7:27:01 PM PST
Thousands of kids get braces every year, and most can't wait to get them off. Now researchers are testing a new device that may speed up the teeth-straightening process by as much as a year.

From the day 14-year-old Alyssa Ueker got her braces, she has had one very important question: When are they coming off? The braces Alyssa wears are designed to straighten her teeth in about two years. In a clinical trial, she is testing a new device called AcceleDent that could move up that timeline.

As part of the study, she bites down on the device for 20 minutes every day. It delivers low-frequency vibration to her teeth. Researchers believe it stimulates bone remodeling and speeds up the straightening process.

"Vibrations, when they are applied to the bone, there is a solid body of evidence from clinical trials and from experiments in humans and animals that the bone metabolism accelerates," associate professor Dubravko Pavlin, DMD, said. "It is faster. The bone remodels at the faster rate."

How much faster?

"If we are talking about the average orthodontic treatment being maybe 24 months, 24 to 26 months, that would mean that we can shorten that treatment to maybe between 12 and 16 months," Pavlin said.

After just six months, Alyssa's teeth are making progress.

"It's pretty exciting thinking you could get your braces off sooner than you should because of one little vibration movement every night," Alyssa said.

She looks forward to the day, perhaps in eight to 10 months, when she can smile and eat without her braces.

Manufacturers say that tests have shown the battery-operated AcceleDent device is safe for children, but it is still pending Food and Drug Administration approval.