Photos by Marie Papp
The Orthodontia Studio, on Hudson Street, has a waiting room that looks more like the lobby of a boutique hotel than a medical practice. The space, designed by Cristina Teixeira, is decorated with reclaimed wood and antique dental tools. A movie is being projected on one wall for patients to enjoy while waiting to see their doctor.
Dr. Mani Alikhani and Dr. Cristina Teixeira have been working together since 2010. They share more than just a goal of straightening Hoboken’s teeth. Alikhani and Teixeira have created some seven patents designed to improve and accelerate orthodontics.
The pair met while working as faculty members at New York University. They connected over their drive to be innovators in their shared field as orthodontists and researchers in bone biology, growth and development. “We felt it was our responsibility, as both clinicians and scientists, to actively promote translation of research findings into clinical applications to help advance the field of orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics,” Teixeira says. “That is why we created CTOR.”
CTOR, which started out as an acronym for Center for Translational Orthodontic Research, is a research center that was cofounded by Teixeira and Alikhani. They are research collaborators, who have published many books and articles in their journal, Innovation. Alikhani is the CEO of CTOR as well as director of CTOR Academy, their advanced education program. They’re also inventors.
“How can we improve orthodontics?” Alikhani asks. “How can we make the body respond faster?” Alikhani and Teixeira’s research lead them to conduct animal studies on various ways to speed up the process of straightening teeth.
Their first invention was a tool called Propel. They created and patented it to make small holes in the jaw bone within the gum line. The bone reacts when trying to heal the small injuries. This makes the bone less dense. Teeth can be moved faster when the bone is more porous. It sounds intense, but patients can eat 20 minutes after a treatment with Propel. “In clinical trials patients report this discomfort to be comparable to that produced just by braces,” Teixeira says.
Next they came up with a small tool called Vpro5. This is meant to ease the discomfort of orthodontic work. It uses vibration to decrease sensitivity while increasing the rate of tooth movement. It’s used for five minutes a day at home. “It’s like using an electric toothbrush,” Alikhani says.
Another innovation that the pair is pioneering is their patent for computerized braces.
“With the current orthodontic appliances, brackets are used to deliver forces generated by arch-wires to the teeth,” Teixeira says. “In our computerized robotic braces, the bracket itself will be manipulated remotely and very precisely to create force systems to move teeth, and clip-on motors will generate the sliding forces to move teeth along special wires. One day our patients will just hold their phone to their face to get their braces adjusted and their tooth alignment checked.”
“The whole of orthodontics can be changed entirely,” Alikhani says.
Patients at Orthodontia Studio are cared for by top researchers in a comfortable setting. Braces do their job faster than they would at a typical orthodontist’s office. This means that the treatment is more convenient and affordable. “We treat these patients in about half the time as what was possible before,” Alikhani says, adding that a normal case takes about 10 months.
But Alikhani and Teixeira are especially interested in cases that aren’t so typical. They aim to use their techniques and tools to help patients with deformities or trauma that could otherwise be corrected only with invasive surgery. “We’re calling it extreme orthodontics, like extreme sports,” Teixeira says.
Alikhani adds, “The more complex these cases are, the more they help us provide care for future generations.” In one case, Orthodontia Studio corrected a deformity that had prevented a patient from speaking. She had been told that it would take multiple, expensive surgeries to correct the deformity which made her unable to fully close her mouth. The doctors have taken on many extreme cases like this one pro bono.
The Right Place at the Right Time
Alikhani and Teixeira agree that Hoboken is the best location for their practice, as well as their research and education centers. All are in the same building near Hoboken Terminal.
“Hoboken is a perfect cradle for innovation in health care,” Teixeira says. “Innovation has been the hallmark of CTOR’s education and translational research programs. Through its collaborations, CTOR proposes to bridge the gap between multiple scientific disciplines, each invested in innovation.” CTOR is partnering with Stevens Institute of Technology on the first independent academy for advancing orthodontic technology, called CTOR Academy. “After all, New Jersey is the home of Thomas A. Edison, the most prolific inventor in American history, with 1,093 patents developed in his own small stand-alone research facility in Menlo Park,” Teixeira says. “CTOR desires to be an innovation-driven center, embraces the spirit of Edison, and will help build on New Jersey’s legacy as the Innovation State.”—07030