Nitinol is a metal alloy – or mixture – of nickel and titanium. This type of wire is also known as “memory wire” or “smart wire,” and it can be used as one of the parts of braces.
What is so smart about it? When heated, nitinol wire changes back into its former shape. To illustrate the properties of this wire, consider this scenario: Take a strand of the wire and bend it into a curved shape. If you try to straighten the wire back out, you won’t be able to; however, if you heat the wire, with a hairdryer for example, you will find that the wire reforms itself into the exact shape it was before you bent it. The wire “remembers” its former shape.
Nitinol relates to your braces treatment in a couple of ways:
- Instead of using stainless steel, nitinol can be used for your arch wire – the wires connecting the braces brackets.
- Traditional stainless steel wires have a tendency to lose tension over time. When the wire becomes slack, you must go to the dentist to have the wire adjusted.
- To use nitinol for your arch wire, your orthodontist will mold the wire to the current shape of your teeth. After the wire is placed in your mouth, it will begin to heat up. As it heats up, the wire will try to reform into a straighter shape.
- As the memory wires tries to straighten out, it will exert gradual pressure on your teeth. Pressure over time is how teeth are moved in orthodontia.
The primary advantage of the memory wire in orthodontia is fewer trips to the dentist for adjustments.