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NorthStar now offers 'digital correction'

NorthStar digital lab technician Staci Harvey works with a file to create sequential appliances to correct "teeth collision." The process, Cindy Kelly said, "opens up a new world in orthodontics." (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

NorthStar Orthodontics is a vanguard in the industry.

The laboratory on Industrial Park Road is among the first to provide digital 3D services to create clear appliances that incrementally straighten teeth.

A computer now tells a technician how to correct "teeth collision."

Computerized scanning and printing have been available to crown and bridge labs, explained Cindy Kelly, CEO/CFO. "But it's new to the orthodontics world."

The digital equipment at the lab scans a model or impression of teeth and gums to create a 3D digital file, Kelly explained.

From that point, a technician is able to virtually straighten teeth and create appliances in incremental movements via the computer. A retaining system for straightening teeth is defined, with the computer determining the number of appliances needed, from one to 10, for example.

Those files move to the 3D model printer, Kelly explained of the process, which lays down layers of resin to create a model that's used to make the appliance.

Dentists can now scan a mouth, eliminating the "goopy" impression materials, and e-mail NorthStar the digital file.

The teeth are then modified as necessary via computer, she said in summary.

A computer is also now available to make the appliance itself, "but that's a ways out," she said of the cost. "But the technology is there."

A primary benefit for dentists, she said, is less storage space needed for filing records. And if an appliance is lost or damaged, NorthStar can replace it without the impression because it's on a computer file.

The decision to buy the equipment was patient- and economy-driven, Kelly said. "They are less expensive and clients like the clear appliances," as opposed to traditional braces. "But it's not applicable to everyone."