“Imagine if you are a patient, the significant difference that decreased pressure is going to make to your comfort level.”
As a child, Dr. Dwight Damon (’62 Zoology) had more than his share of curiosity.
Damon’s father, who taught math and science at Spokane’s West Valley High School, always encouraged him to question and explore everything. “He instilled in me that desire to always find the better solution.”
At Washington State University, encouragement came from zoology professor Herbert Eastlick.
“Herb was my advisor, my mentor, and my friend,” says Damon. “He was constantly challenging us, encouraging everyone to reach their full potential.”
That desire and encouragement have paid off for Damon. Now a Spokane orthodontist, he has developed a new system of braces that is revolutionizing the profession.
Damon left WSU in 1962 for the University of Washington’s School of Dentistry, where he graduated in 1966. After a twoyear tour of duty in the Navy, he returned to the UW in 1968 for his orthodontic residency. He has practiced in the Spokane Valley since 1970.
So where did the idea to create a “better system of braces” come from?
“I’ve always liked challenging what I was doing,” says Damon. The more he studied the established system of braces, the less sense it made to him. So one day he told his wife, “I am going to change the way that the world does braces.”
The traditional system of braces consists of metal brackets on each tooth, with a wire running through each bracket from one side of the mouth to the other. The wire exerts pressure on the teeth, moving them into their correct position.
A significant problem with this system has been that the ties connecting the wire to each bracket actually inhibit the teeth from moving. Wire or rubber ties that exert heavy force can cut off the blood supply in the area between the root and the surrounding bone, hindering the teeth from moving until the blood supply is re-established.
Damon realized that the key to change was to develop a system that relies on guidance of teeth rather than force. Unlike traditional braces, the Damon System II braces include a slide that closes on the outside, forming a tube to hold the wire. By eliminating the binding ties, orthodontists can take full advantage of high-tech, low-force wires. Instead of forcing the teeth to move, the Damon System II braces guide them into position. “This method decreases the amount of force on a single tooth by over 600 times,” says Damon. “Imagine if you are a patient, the significant difference that decreased pressure is going to make to your comfort level. And what we have found interesting is that most adults can now be treated in the same amount of time as children.” The system reduces the average treatment time by six to eight months.
Of course, envisioning the new system was simply the first step for Damon. He had to find a company willing to develop and manufacture the braces and work through engineering and marketing issues. Damon has been working on the system for about 12 years. The latest version made its appearance in orthodontists’ offices last June.
But even getting the system off the ground was not the biggest challenge, says Damon. “It has been figuring out how to use it most effectively, and how to teach other clinicians how to use it. Change can be challenging, especially in a well-established industry like orthodontics. But it has been exciting over the past few years to see this new technology gain acceptance all over the world.
“Plus, I . . . love what I am doing. When a 14-year-old patient throws her arms around you and thanks you for changing her life, that feeling is truly overwhelming.”