Damon braces are the hardware ingredient in the Damon System of orthodontics. The Damon System has been growing in popularity since it was introduced in 1996 and has gone through two significant upgrades. Damon braces combine characteristics of traditional appliances and the newer, “invisible” aligner trays, and add an entirely new feature that borrows from advanced materials developed by U.S. Navy weapons scientists. Materials previously used in applications ranging from jet engines to underwire bras and “indestructible” eyeglass frames!
The innovation that sets Damon braces apart is continuous self-adjustment, or self-ligation in technical terms. Traditional braces have to be manually tightened by the orthodontist as the patient’s teeth slowly move. Invisible aligners such as Invisalign require that new aligners be periodically custom- fabricated to keep teeth moving along. Damon braces adjust themselves, continuously. This capability is the foundation of the Damon System’s advantages.
The self-adjusting feature is enabled by a wire made of a copper-nickel-titanium (Copper Ni-Ti) alloy that has the property of shape memory. This is key to understanding how Damon braces work, so let’s unwind it.
We’re all familiar with solid materials like, say, glass. If you apply enough of a force to a solid object, it changes shape or comes apart. If you then stop applying the force, it doesn’t put itself back together or go back to its original shape. Terminators are still far in the future! Materials with the property of plasticity change shape when force is applied, and stay that way the force is removed. Like a bent spoon. Some other everyday objects are made of materials that have the property of elasticity: they change shape when force is applied, but return to their original form when the force is removed. A dog’s rubber chewy bone, for example. You can bend and twist it, but when you let go it “remembers” its original shape and returns to it. So does a rubber band.
The archwires used in Damon braces have this property of elasticity or shape memory, but with a critical twist. The Copper Ni-Ti material they’re made of has shape memory that’s stimulated by heat. Heat, like the 98.6 degrees inside the human mouth. It’s the shape-memory property of the Damon archwires, the wires’ “effort” to return to their original shape, that provides the force orthodontists harness to gently re-align teeth.
This source of constant gentle pressure is exploited by a design innovation in the Damon brackets, which are otherwise quite similar in structure to traditional brackets. Archwires are fixed to the brackets in conventional appliances, but Damon design permits the wires to slide freely across the brackets as the teeth shift. The gentle pressure provided by the memory wires and these slide brackets, working together, write most of the list of “pros” for Damon braces.
Some research supports the Damon company’s claims of shorter treatment duration when compared with traditional braces. The speed advantage is primarily in the first stages of treatment. Studies which observed this advantage reported treatment durations averaging 6-7 months shorter. This is one criterion, however, by which the Damon system does not offer a clear advantage over invisible aligners.
Another outcome gain the Damon system can provide is a more precise alignment of teeth at the completion of treatment. There’s a broad consensus among dentists that this is a valid expectation, although the research evidence is not conclusive. The alignment outcomes are the equal of those with traditional braces, and further research may well establish Damon’s superiority by this measure. It’s thought by some orthodontists that greater precision with Damon braces is more demanding of the orthodontist’s skill, attention, and time.
Damon braces are less prone to promoting plaque accumulation around the brackets. They’re easier to keep clean. Aligners, because they’re removable, give patients’ toothbrushes and floss normal access to all dental surfaces, but of course, introduce the new problem of keeping the aligner itself clean.
The comparison with traditional metal braces is twofold. Damon patients and orthodontists can choose metal brackets or clear ceramic brackets. Damon metal brackets, because of their sliding design, are somewhat less conspicuous than their conventional counterparts. The Damon clear brackets are much less visible than metal ones, although more noticeable than Invisalign. However, “invisible” aligner trays tend to become discolored, and less invisible, over time. Damon ceramic brackets don’t discolor.
For some patients concerned with appearance, Damon clear braces may be the best available option. Invisible aligners won’t work for everybody, depending on the individual’s specific orthodontic challenges and goals. Damon braces have the versatility of traditional appliances, and can effectively address a much wider variety of issues than aligners can.
PROS: PATIENT EXPERIENCE
Here the Damon orthodontic system shines. The self-adjusting property of Damon braces means fewer office visits over the whole course of treatment, a plus in any patient’s book. On the average, only about half as many appointments for Damon compared with traditional braces. Although it varies considerably from person to person a Damon patient will generally come in for checkups every 10-12 weeks, whereas conventional braces and aligners need adjustment/replacement at 4-6 week intervals.
Damon braces win kudos from patients with regard to overall comfort. The gentle force applied to teeth means less transitory discomfort compared with that common after traditional braces are installed or adjusted. There are fewer issues of speech impediment compared with aligners, a plus for patients’ self-confidence and social ease. Aligners have to be removed before eating. It’s then crucial for decay prevention to brush and floss before replacing the aligner. Inconvenient at best, downright awkward in some circumstances.
For some patients, the fact that Damon braces stay in their mouths 24/7 is actually a significant advantage. An aligner, once removed for whatever reason, can be forgotten or lost. Naturally, when this happens, it’s usually at the worst possible time and place, like just before getting on that 16-hour flight to a two-week vacation on a remote island paradise!
Cost may be a concern for some patients, as Damon System treatment is likely to be more costly in many situations than traditional braces would be. Invisible aligners and Damon clear braces are, ballpark, about the same in terms of cost. An individual’s bottom line out-of-pocket is subject to modification by any insurance carrier and its coverage, if any, of the several orthodontic treatment options.
The first fork in a patient’s road to orthodontic treatment selection is drawn by his or her initial condition and treatment goals, as evaluated by the orthodontist. For some people, their desire for invisibility and their willingness to pay for it may be frustrated when the orthodontist determines that invisible aligners are not up to the task at hand.
When the choice then comes down to traditional metal braces or Damon clear, the question is whether the patient wants to pay a premium for the less visible (though not invisible) alternative with potential advantages in treatment duration, comfort, scheduling convenience, and ease of cleaning.
Each of the three approaches, traditional, Damon, and aligner trays, has its distinct advantages and disadvantages. Damon System is a valued and welcome addition to the orthodontist’s toolkit, and it’s the right choice for some patients. If you think it’s the right one for you, consult an orthodontist with experience in all three methods and get his or her advice as to which will best meet your treatment goals and budget limits.