Why the Bonsai Tree?
The Japanese art of Bonsai and orthodontia are perfect equals. Both involve nurturing and science working together to create a dynamic work of art. More importantly both crafts require careful discipline and a lifelong commitment to maintenance. Dr. K always jokes, “What do you call a Bonsai tree that is not maintained?”
Anyone who has ever investigated or attempted to start a Bonsai tree quickly learns that one needs to know a whole bunch about horticulture. Growing the tree is slow and gradual- the plant will grow at its own pace. After the plant’s root structure develops and the sapling begins to grow, the artist starts to shape the tree. Similarly in orthodontia, when we treat our younger patients, we are trying to shape the jaws to allow the teeth to erupt into the boundaries that genetics and other factors will allow.
A mature Bonsai tree takes years to take shape. There is no rushing the development process. In spite of the artist best efforts, the Bonsai tree will mature along it’s own path with the help of the gentle direction. Anyone who has ever gone to a Bonsai exhibit realizes that no two of these trees are remotely similar. Likewise, with orthodontia each individual has their own unique smile. The shape of the face, the shape of the teeth and their relation to each other are all intertwined together. Harmony yields beauty.
When the Bonsai tree matures, the artist work is not done. There are the feedings, pruning and maintaining the root structures. The Bonsai tree and an completed orthodontic case are never really completed, there is always change with time. So as the Bonsai artist maintains his/her artwork, our orthodontic team (patient, family dentist, and orthodontist) have to monitor and maintain the completed orthodontic treatment.
For our adult patients, it is never too late to consider orthodontics to work with the teeth to improve function, esthetics and aid with other dental problems. As an adult, the jaws have already developed, but like the art of bonsai- it is still possible to shape the smile or correct malpositions to create a more harmonious bite. Regardless of when the treatment is rendered, the concepts are all the same- form, function and change with time.
The Bonsai artist and the orthodontist have a vision and perception for balance, harmony and esthetics. The art of Bonsai, like our teeth, especially those which have had orthodontic treatment require a lifetime of maintenance.