Getting braces today involves high-tech gear

Computers improve imaging

Press & Sun-Bulletin

VESTAL -- When it was time for 9-year-old Jennifer Almy to visit her orthodontist, she said she "felt a little weird." Eventually, she was thrilled to get an appliance decorated with her favorite butterfly.

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Dr. Peter Bronsky, above left, discusses the variety of colors that can be selected for an orthodontic appliance with Jennifer Almy, 9, of Vestal, as her cousins, from left, Lily, Nicole, and Emily Sarkisian, listen in.


Photos by REBECCA TOWNS / Press & Sun-Bulletin

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At right, Bronsky talks to lab technician Elaine Kniffen of Endwell in the Vestal office. Bronsky has worked at the practice since 1989.


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Dr. Peter Bronsky holds orthodontic appliances that are being fitted to the impression of one of his patient's teeth.

Jennifer also was amazed to see pictures of her jaw on a computer screen. Her orthodontist, Dr. Peter T. Bronsky, has developed a computer network that uses X-rays and digital photographs to display a patient's teeth and simulate how they will look as they undergo correction.

Jennifer thought it was pretty neat when she viewed her mouth on a flat-panel screen, right there in the examination chair.

. "It's cool," said Jennifer, of Vestal. "It's only when you see that X-ray that you can see your own skull. I learned what the appliance does. At first I didn't understand that, but now I do."

Full-color computer screens are as common a sight as dental instruments and hygienists at Bronsky Orthodontics in Vestal. Bronsky's practice also boasts a high-tech laboratory where orthodontic appliances are custom-made rather than being ordered from faraway companies.

Highly engineered materials, including heat- activated nickel titanium -- first developed for space shuttle antenna -- and thermal plastics have made braces and retainers more precise and less painful, Bronsky said. Transparent Invisalign products have made orthodontic work more aesthetically pleasing.

People visit an orthodontist to correct problems involving jaw alignment or crooked, missing or crowded teeth. Though most patients are children whose permanent teeth have grown in, screenings are recommended for children over age 7 who may show signs of jaw-discrepancy or tooth-eruption problems.

Orthodontists treat adults, too -- even retirees -- who want their teeth to look better or never had braces when they were children.

Bronsky's office usually has three hygienists on duty, as well as four laboratory technicians who form plaster models and create the appliances in a high-tech lab. At a busy time, like after-school hours, the office can accommodate seven or eight patients, he said.

A typical day in the office includes initial examinations for new patients; creating digital X-rays, photos and models; preparation, measurement, evaluations, diagnosis and executing treatment plans; engineering of custom braces and other appliances; checkups; and correspondences with parents or other specialists.

It takes about 24 months for braces to do their job, although new materials force corrections more gradually so the patient doesn't have to visit the orthodontist's office as often.

Southern Tier computer engineers helped Bronsky piece together his unique network. The software even allows him to diagnose and inspect the simulation in three dimensions. He uses the images to educate parents and can send the files to dentists, oral surgeons and other experts anywhere.

"It has made education and communicating with the patient and other professionals a whole lot easier," he said. "One of the nicest things is I can e-mail doctors, with photos, and have a real-time consultation with them. We can do consults anywhere in the world now."

The colorful computer images keep children interested, so they are more likely to comply with instructions, Bronsky said. So do the decorations they can choose for their appliance, including sports logos, animals, SpongeBob SquarePants or glitter.

Jennifer now has an upper-jaw expander, which widens the roof of the mouth to create more space for her teeth while they are being straightened. It didn't take her long to pick out a sticker to make the appliance her own. "Monarchs," she says, "are my favorite butterfly."

Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin