How Nickel, Copper, and Cobalt Are Changing Dentistry

Copper Dentures

Ever since the 18th century, orthodontic technology has constantly been evolving. Every year research and development help to advance the leading edge of orthodontic care, creating new treatments, and introducing new materials. Out of that steady progress came the technology that allows the correction of many orthodontic issues, including palette expansion, tooth realignment, and bite correction. As part of this process, copper, nickel, cobalt, and titanium have entered the scene with ever-expanding and changing applications.

What Makes These Metals Unique?

The standard metal for creating traditional braces has been stainless steel for quite some time. This is due to the low cost of stainless steel and its ability to be applied to correcting a broad range of malocclusions. As dental technology has advanced, these metal braces have continuously reduced in size and require fewer parts. CAD/CAM technology is partially to thank for this, alongside 3D imaging and software that provides a clearer image of the mouth’s topography to the dentist. One of the recent advances in braces technology is the introduction of new materials that can be used in their construction.

Stainless steel has particularly high rigidity, especially in its application as brace wires. These wires, therefore, need to be made smaller to accommodate for the lack of flexibility. Unfortunately, this reduced size comes at a cost in the ability to control them during adjustments. This has led to problems with the wires sloping where they interface with the bracket. Despite being the most widely used metal for these applications, stainless steel is seeing some challenges to its supremacy in orthodontics. Nickel, titanium, copper, and cobalt have all been challenging its place due to certain properties that make them the right choice for a range of applications.

  • Nickel – When alloyed with titanium, nickel has been shown to have a remarkable amount of flexibility and spring-back. First introduced in the 1970s, this alloy exerts a constant low-tension force that orthodontics are able to apply to adjusting alignments gradually. They don’t deform as easily as some materials, but they do have a degree of stiffness that makes some orthodontists shy away from them.
  • Copper – Copper works well with a nickel-titanium alloy, creating an enhanced level of flexibility that is resistant to deforming. This combination exerts a greater degree of force than nickel-titanium alloys. Its range of properties expands even more based on the specific temperatures used in its manufacture, and it’s easy to adjust nature makes it perfect for the gradual correction of malocclusion.
  • Cobalt – Cobalt-chromium is a special alloy that shares many properties with stainless steel wires but is more resistant to distortion and has an improved spring function. The higher heats required during manufacture make this more durable than stainless steel, though it is also less malleable than its more traditional alternative. Despite this, it is less prone to fracture, making it a popular solution for many dentists.

This selection of metals brings a broad range of options to orthodontists and general dentists alike. Ongoing evaluation and improvement of these materials allow an adjustable and dynamic care routine for a malocclusion. Dr. Gerard J Lemongello and Jay M Lerner in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, can tell you more. Call today to schedule an appointment at Lerner and Lemongello today!

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