Implant techniques to guide the movement of teeth, projecting virtual jaw bones and smiles on a computer screen, and more adults seeking healthy, beautiful smiles are future trends up for discussion this week at the 106th Annual Session of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) in Las Vegas.

According to orthodontists attending the AAO Annual Meeting, technology gives the orthodontist new tools for planning a patient’s treatment. In some cases, patients can leave their orthodontist’s office with a printout of the planned final result, which may help to keep them motivated during treatment, or more importantly, give them a realistic perspective of how their final results may look. Another technique now possible is laser scanning the patient’s mouth or an impression of the patient’s mouth, which is interpreted using imaging software, to produce a digital model of the patient’s mouth, eliminating the need for traditional plaster models.

More adults are turning to orthodontics today. One out of five orthodontic patients is an adult (18 years of age and older), and the number of adult patients has increased 60% from 10 years ago. In addition, because of health awareness and advances in dental care, more adults are choosing to wear braces to improve their dental health and appearance. Adults, however, also are turning to “quick fix” solutions to achieve beautiful smiles, such as veneers and bonding. Patients interested in these types of processes need to consult their orthodontist, otherwise, they may be masking potentially serious issues that may eventually lead to dental decay and periodontal disease.