A breakthrough depended on the possibility of bonding a metal bracket directly to the enamel on the back side of each tooth, and that was Kurz' scheme. But by last June, when Kurz was ready for his first test, Cathy Worthington was no longer a patient. A mobile home salesman George Dumais 31 became Kurz' star guinea pig. Before setting the brackets, Kurz cleaned and conditioned Dumais' teeth with a weak solution of phosphoric acid to make them more porous. (Normal enamel is very smooth and won't bond, so Kurz removed an infinitesimal layer—about the amount Dumais would brush off in a year.) Then came an application of acrylic resin, which acted as the glue. Finally, Kurz strung a wire through the brackets to straighten the teeth or correct the bite as required.
Within three months Dumais saw progress. "Anything I have to say about the braces is positive," he exults. "I could jump up and down for joy. I hope Kurz makes a million." Another seeming success story is actress Mary Ann Hay, 29, who was fitted with the invisible braces and has worn them successfully while singing in a dinner theater production of The Music Man in Tustin, Calif.
Many of Kurz' colleagues are not yet convinced. But L.A.'s American Hospital, a medical supply and development firm, has gone ahead and manufactured 600 sets of the Kurz brackets—which the orthodontist of course patented. Newly available this month they will cost $2,500-$4,500 per set, roughly the same as traditional braces for adults.
Kurz, a Marina del Rey bachelor, was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, the son of a wheat farmer, and was trained at the University of Saskatchewan, then McGill and Columbia. Currently, he teaches at UCLA, maintains a private practice and is spreading the word of his invention on a cross-country lecture tour. Such promotion may be unnecessary. If Kurz has built the better mouth trap, the world will beat a path to his door.
Guys don't make passes at girls who wear braces—and Playboy Clubs generally don't employ them either—so L.A. bunny Cathy Worthington had a problem. Her overbite needed correction, but how could she afford the orthodontist if she were fired from the club? She was referred to Dr. Craven Kurz, who now recalls, "I was driving down the freeway, wishing there were some way I could help this woman, when I thought of putting the entire brace inside the teeth." Invisible braces? If Kurz, 36, could do it, he would be one of the heroes of an age of cosmetic consciousness.