Hey, hobo man, Hey, dapper Dan, You’ve both got your style,
But, brother, you’re never fully dressed without a smile!
—“You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile,” Annie
Kingston dentist Dennis Oppenheimer has been practicing for 13 years in the Hudson Valley, and he’s always loved his work. (Full disclosure: he’s my dentist, and he rocks.) Since learning and adopting Fastbraces technology in 2013, however, Oppenheimer has become a kind of evangelist for this rising method of straightening teeth. For former braces-wearers who suffered excess discomfort and lengthy treatment and want better for their friends and loved ones, or any adult who desires straight teeth but worries the process might be too painful and/or time consuming, his pitch for Fastbraces, for which his office is the only local provider, is worth listening to.
“It’s completely changing braces,” he says. “It’s one of the few things I’ve looked at in continuing education that really excited me. Compared to traditional braces, it takes half the time, it’s half the cost, and there’s no removal of teeth. At first, I thought, ‘What’s the catch?’ There isn’t one.”
Fastbraces is the brainchild of orthodontist Dr. Anthony Viazis. In the late 1980s, Dr. Viazis was just entering his orthodontics residency. “He was researching why braces fail,” Says Oppenheimer. “Why teeth move back when braces are taken off.”
Viazis decided to try to improve on the longstanding, existing braces designs – the wires, the bands, etc. In the “traditional” method, the crowns of the teeth are moved first, then the roots, a lengthy process– usually two years – during which tooth removal is sometimes necessary. Vexingly, after much time, pain, and cost, teeth often move back to former crooked positions.
Viazi worked on a different kind of brace, structured to move the root at the beginning, cutting down treatment duration, and making removal of teeth unnecessary. He prototyped it in 1991. Within a few years, his new brace was reviewed favorably in clinical journals in both the U.S. and Europe. More research and positive reviews followed from Finland, Brazil and elsewhere.
In 1996, Fastbraces was born. Viazis initially practiced solely in Texas, honing his methods and garnering great word of mouth (so to speak). Over the ensuing decade, he opened more locations, and trained dentists in his method at his Fastbraces University outside Dallas. With the advent of widespread Internet, and increasingly ubiquitous broadband, word of his invention spread to dentists all over the world, and the idea for a procedure that could use the Internet for updates, education, and referrals began to take hold.
Viazis and Fastbraces eventually went international, with a significant uptick in practitioners in the last couple of years. Oppenheimer sees this as a tipping point.
“Two years ago, two to three per cent of people having orthodontics done were getting Fastbraces,” says Oppenheimer. “Now it’s ten per cent.” Oppenheimer notes that Fastbraces isn’t for everyone. About 15 per cent of cases need traditional braces and/or more aggressive orthodontics.
This brings up a point. Dentists use Fastbraces. Orthodontists do not. Orthodontists have been critical, claiming Fastbraces is just a quick, inferior fix; while less expensive than the usual two-year process of traditional braces, Fastbraces, they claim, is merely a cosmetic approach, and doesn’t resolve comprehensive dental issues, like bite alignment.
In the two years he has been practicing Fastbraces, Oppenheimer has applied the method to numerous patients, and he maintains that he hasn’t seen any of the aforementioned difficulties. On the contrary, he says bite problems, not to mention the awful temporomandibular joint disorder – aka TMJ, an excruciating, chronic pain in the jaw – are risks with traditional braces, but not so with Fastbraces. Fastbraces expands bone so teeth have more room, all with significantly less discomfort than traditional braces. And yes, they cost less. It seems too good to be true, Oppenheimer says, but it is true.
Fastbraces will completely change orthodontics in the next ten years,” Oppenheimer predicts. “Just six months ago, the Harvard School of Dental Medicine published their paper confirming the scientific technology behind Fastbraces.” Meanwhile, Fastbraces has extended to Greece, the UK, and Australia, where it is the most popular orthodontic procedure. At present, the number of U.S. practitioners is two thousand and counting.
When he first heard of Fastbraces, Oppenheimer traveled to Texas to learn the process from Dr. Viazis himself. (“I was one of the last dentists he taught,” says Oppenheimer. “Now he’s too busy.”) Subsequently, another dentist at his office, Dr. Joanna Mlynarczyk, became a practitioner, and it was incumbent on Oppenheimer to bring his staff of hygienists up to speed. Adopting Fastbraces was labor-intensive on the front end, he says, and time-consuming, but all well worth it. He returns to Dallas every few months for more training and updates in the technology, and he keeps in touch with other practitioners via the Internet.
“It’s a group effort,” he says, speaking of the corps of Fastbraces-using dentists worldwide, all connected via broadband, all of whom can and do check in and compare notes. “I upload X-rays and photos to the central office in Texas and they weigh in.”
He likes to share the story of his first two Fastbraces patients. “They were sisters,” he says. “They’d used traditional orthodontics for years, but their teeth kept moving back after treatment. I asked if they wanted to be my first Fastbraces patients and they said sure. It was amazing. We were all saying, ‘Wow! It works!’ That was the beginning for us.”