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Anterior Retention With a Reinforced Composite Resin Splint After Cosmetic Orthodontic Treatment

Anterior Retention With a Reinforced Composite Resin Splint After Cosmetic Orthodontic Treatment

Originally posted on Dentistry Today.

It has become increasingly clear that making space in the crowded adult dentition by orthodontic expansion of the dental arch is prone to relapse.1,2 Moreover, the intercanine distance has actually been shown to decrease as early as mid-adulthood.1,3 Even cases treated to stability during late adolescence are prone to “late incisor crowding” by 34 years of age,4and the presence of third molars does not significantly contribute to this.5 Even though other skeletal factors and even facial bone dimensions may not significantly decrease until a later age, the influence of naturally decreasing intercanine distance on anterior dental aesthetics has been grossly underestimated. This basic misunderstanding of the early maturation of adult jaw dimensions has enormous repercussions for orthodontic treatment philosophy, as well as implications for the necessity of long-term retention.

Therefore, in cases where one must choose between slight contraction of the intercanine dimension through lower incisor extraction or expansion, the former may prove more stable. Anticipating “intercanine shrinkage” may help prevent future crowding years later when the doctor and patient have presumed stability, and retention has been discontinued. A cosmetic splint anchoring each anterior tooth individually serves to prevent this common and unaesthetic phenomenon of anterior orthodontic relapse.

Traditionally, orthodontists in the 1950s used a prefabricated metal bar fixed to only the canines for lower retention, with the rationale being the effects of arch expansion would be maintained until it was removed. Any incisor relapse would be inconsequential because it would just be an “aesthetic” consideration (Figure 1). Now that dentistry has accepted that the major reason adult patients seek treatment is aesthetics, we can properly address this essential aspect of retention. Some began affixing a customized bar with incisor pads or braided wire bonded to each incisor,6,7 which represented an improvement but still required placing metal in an aesthetic area. It was rationalized that the elastic property of a thin wire allowed physiologic mobility helpful in the periodontic patient.7 This is to be differentiated from the orthodontic patient with healthy periodontium, where the aim is to provide a window for bone and PDL fibers to reorganize with rigid reinforcement.

Also presented for periodontal patients have been reinforced composite splints using TMS pins8 and bondable reinforcement ribbon.9 With the boom in cosmetic dentistry and cosmetic orthodontics, the ribbon is proving useful for the stabilization of adult patients. Unlike the lingual bar this splint can be later removed incrementally as the patient desires.10 As 50% of relapse has been shown to occur in the first 2 years after orthodontic treatment,11 the splint should remain intact for longer than 2 years.

The main purpose of the splint is rigid fixation of the teeth. This immobilization, however, also accelerates the growth of supporting tissues, as the alveolus and PDL fibers can reorganize around the teeth in their new positions without interference from tooth mobility inherent in orthodontic treatment. In addition, this technique enables cosmetic augmentation of the final orthodontic result, as black triangular spaces, incisal discrepancies, or the lengthening of teeth can be achieved with more strength than free-standing incisal composites, which lack the thickness or support of a reinforcement material on the lingual aspect (Figures 2 and 3). Except for those few cases where the patient has a perfect orthodontic result and well-proportioned white teeth without any incisal defects, anterior bonding attached to and reinforced by the splint can greatly enhance the final aesthetic result.

If a maxillary splint is planned and the patient presents with overjet, the overjet should be preserved to allow space for the maxillary splint (Figure 4). This is in contrast to traditional orthodontic philosophy of complete elimination of overjet, even if the overjet represents the natural skeletal position. Skeletal changes cannot be permanently retained without surgery. Adult overjet, such as in a class 2, division 2 case (Figure 5), will be more stable if the overjet is maintained.

Figure 1. Lingual metal bar fixed only to the canines allows incisor relapse, which is not acceptable in cosmetic orthodontic patients. Figure 2. Class 2, division 2 before incisors are tipped forward giving overjet. Note attrition from deep bite on palatally tipped incisors.
Figure 3. After a 6-month treatment time with lingual braces, patient is splinted. Irregular incisors may be lengthened with more durability than with incisal composites not supported by a splint. Figure 4. Slight overjet in final result helps allow the necessary thickness for a durable maxillary splint.
Figure 5. Once completed, an adult class 2, division 2 case will result in overjet without surgery. Figure 6. Etching can include incisals should there be discrepancies that need correction.
Figure 7. Initial layer of composite should be a strong material and kept away from papillae. Figure 8. Splint-It! reinforcement material is placed into composite and cured.
Figure 9. Placement of addtional composite to cover reinforcement fibers. Figure 10. Occlusion is checked before final recontouring and polish.


Step one. Complete enamel etching with recontouring on buccal and incisal for aesthetics, and on lingual if necessary to allow splint thickness with occlusion (Figure 6).

Step two. Bonding layer with composite is kept away from gingiva (Figure 7).

Step three. Two strips of Splint It! (Jereric/Pentron) or Ribbond (Ribbond Inc) reinforcement material are pressed into composite. Excess material is placed over reinforcement and cured (Figure 8).

Step four. Addition of final layer of composite (Figure 9).

Step five. Occlusion is checked preceeding recontouring embrasures with a Brasseler No. 8392-31 016F interproximal diamond and polishing bur (Figure 10).


Even in the most stable types of orthodontic treatment, any relapse at all may be unacceptable cosmetically. Through the placement of a reinforced composite splint, the teeth can be held in position and more significantly recontoured, thus augmenting the final result. Subsquent splint removal can be done incrementally 3 to 5 years after placement as the patient desires.

Author’s Note: I was saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. John Witzig on December 3, 2001. Dr. Witzig was a true innovator who was not afraid to fight the tide of consensus in orthodontics. He brought many  people together in the field (I met my wife at his course). We all owe him a debt of gratitude, and he will be greatly missed. Thank you, John.


1. Bishara SE, Jakobsen JR, Treder J, et al. Arch width changes from 6 weeks to 45 years of age. Am J Orthod. 1997;111:401-409.

2. Rossouw PE, Preston CB, Lombar CJ, et al. A longitudinal evaluation of the anterior border of the dentition. Am J Orthod Dentofaciai Orthop. 1993;104:146-152.

3. Sinclair PM, Little RM. Maturation of untreated normal occlusions. Am J Orthod. 1983;83:114-123.

4. Bondevik O. Changes in occlusion between 23 and 34 years. Angle Orthod. 1998;68:75-80.

5. Harradine NW, Pearson MH, Toth B. The effect of extraction of third molars on late lower incisor crowding: a randomized controlled trial. Br J Orthod. 1998;25:117-122.

6. Becker A, Goultschin J. The multistrand retainer and splint. Am J Orthod. 1984;85:470-474.

7. Oikarinen K. Comparison of the flexibility of various splinting methods for tooth fixation. Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 1988;17:125-127.

8. Rosenberg ES, Garber DA. A temporary-permanent splint. Refuat Hapeh Vehashinayim. 1979;28:27-30,33-37.

9. Ferreira ZA, de Carvalho EK, Mitsudo RS, et al. Bondable reinforcement ribbon: clinical applications. Quintessence Int. 2000;31:547-552.

10. Sheridan JJ. Incremental removal of bonded lingual retainers. J Clin Orthod. 1988;22:116-117.

11.Kuijpers-Jatman AM, Al Yami EA, van’t Hof MA. Long-term stability of orthodontic treatment. Ned Tijdschr Tandheelkd. [in Dutch] 2000;107:178-181.

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Adult Orthodontics and a Post-Treatment Bonded Splint: A New Cosmetic Subspecialty

Adult Orthodontics and a Post-Treatment Bonded Splint: A New Cosmetic Subspecialty

Originally posted on

As the field of cosmetic dentistry is still rapidly evolving, we have not yet integrated the various specialties to provide seamless care in a case that requires multiple disciplines. For example, a patient needing orthodontics, crown and bridge or implants, gingival recontouring, orthodontic retention, and bonding will normally be cross-referred between their GP, periodontist, orthodontist, and perhaps an oral surgeon1,2 (4 doctors). While specialists normally provide the highest level of care, there exist certain cases where a “cosmetic subspecialist” may be best suited to create a final result that is harmonized in concept, proportion, and materials.
The following case would often be treated with orthodontics and retainers, and then relapse because of the unusual nature of the case and high tendency to relapse with removable retainers3 regardless of the duration of the orthodontics. The relapse in the anterior segment in adult patients is especially high.4 This patient had 3 missing anterior teeth as well as an impacted canine (Figure 1). Most orthodontists are not accustomed or trained to incorporate significant bonding and reshaping into their treatment plans, so the missing lateral incisors spaces would usually be opened up for implants or 6 units of crown and bridge to provide traditional canine guidance. Yet, there is insufficient bone for an implant for No. 7, and there are alternative treatment options that are simpler, far shorter in duration, and less expensive. Nontraditional thinking is required in this case, especially from an orthodontic perspective, as ideal treatment is most likely impossible.


Figure 1. Patient is missing 3 lateral incisors. Tooth No. 6 was fully impacted in bone before surgical exposure, and was used to substitute for the missing tooth No. 7 through extrusion, mesialization, reshaping, and bonding. Figure 2. Bonding and reshaping was also done to the enamel and gingiva of the bicuspids to make them into canines. The front 6 teeth were splinted and bonded. This case has no implants or bridges.

The patient had been to 3 orthodontists and was looking for treatment alternatives, as all 3 offered 2- to 3-year treatment plans with no promise of a satisfactory result because of bone issues surrounding tooth No. 6, among other things. The patient was not willing to crown all his anterior teeth, which had also been proposed. Our treatment plan involved surgical exposure and super-eruption of tooth No. 6, then making teeth Nos. 6 and 11 into lateral incisors through mesial movement and bonding, making teeth Nos. 5 and 12 into canines, minimizing the lower canine cusps, and connecting all anteriors with a Ribbond/composite splint for stability as well as to support the extra bonding that would be necessary (Figure 2).5
Instead of dividing the treatment by “specialty” and fragmenting the plan with 3 providers, in this way the case may be managed by one practitioner who is experienced in performing splinted retention with concurrent bonding. I previously wrote of a porcelain pontic veneer placed over a Ribbond splint used for orthodontics.6 This case shows how the splint can support significant bonding and provide needed fracture resistance to canines, which are made into laterals, and bicuspids which are made into canines. Equally important is the required fixation, as any relapse would reveal their deficient anatomy and ruin the “camouflage” effect of the bonding. Most orthodontic cases have some degree of relapse, and that would be unacceptable in cases such as this.
This treatment reflects a paradigm shift. Instead of providing a traditional orthodontic result by adding prosthetic lateral incisors, other teeth are moved shorter distances and bonded, providing a faster, simpler, and less expensive result. This is preferable for many patients who are more interested in avoiding gaping holes in their smile than committing to a 2-year treatment plan with endosseous implants. While patients are made aware of treatment alternatives, specifically what will not be provided in this plan, they overwhelmingly choose a method that resolves their chief aesthetic complaint. They are generally satisfied years at recall as well. Should they choose to crown or veneer this result in the future when more stability has been achieved, that option is still available to them.



Reshaping teeth via splinting and bonding is a practical, aesthetic alternative which addresses the high incidence of relapse still seen in orthodontics today. Simultaneously, this can serve to resolve some difficult and unusual aesthetic predicaments.


  1. Chadroff B. The interdisciplinary approach to implant dentistry. Gen Dent. 2004;52:321-326.
  2. Spear FM, Kokich VG, Mathews DP. Interdisciplinary management of anterior dental esthetics. J Am Dent Assoc. 2006;137:160-169.
  3. Hirschfelder U, Hertrich K. The treatment of deep bite in adults. Fortschr Kieferorthop. 1990;51:36-43.
  4. Lang G, Alfter G, Goz G, et al. Retention and stability—taking various treatment parameters into account. J Orofac Orthop. 2002;63:26-41.
  5. Kokich VO Jr, Kinzer GA. Managing congenitally missing lateral incisors. Part 1: Canine substitution. J Esthet Restor Dent. 2005;17:5-10.
  6. Georgaklis CC. Anterior retention with a reinforced composite resin splint after cosmetic orthodontic treatment. Dent Today. Jan 2002;21:54-57.
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