For many people, braces conjure images of awkward teen years marked by a mouth full of metal and, in many cases, headgear. Orthodontics have come a long way in the past several decades, which has led to a surge in adults seeking treatment.
It’s estimated that more than one million adults in the U.S. and Canada started some form of orthodontic treatment in recent years. What sparked the trend? Probably a combination of new technology and a broader understanding of the field of orthodontics.
What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontia is a specialized branch of dentistry that corrects dental issues like crooked teeth and misaligned bites. Braces and orthodontic appliances apply pressure to teeth to slowly move them into the correct position for a healthier smile.
Why Orthodontics Are Important for Kids and Teens
Spacing problems and bite misalignments don’t disappear on their own and can lead to pain, tooth decay, and low self-confidence in kids and teens. Children should be evaluated by an orthodontist by age 7 to identify potential issues and determine if treatment is necessary.
Child orthodontics may be important to help kids eat and speak properly. Orthodontic treatment for children can also help correct dental problems related to thumb-sucking, early or late loss of baby teeth, accidents, and poor nutrition.
Having braces during your teen years allows orthodontists to correct problems with permanent teeth. Addressing issues during the teen years is important because teens are still growing, so it’s easier to shift the teeth and jaw while they are still pliable.
However, just because straightening teeth and correcting bite misalignments is easier during the child and adolescent years doesn’t mean it’s not worth getting braces as an adult. Let’s take a look at what braces look like during the adult years, and why it could be a good decision for you.
Are Braces Worth It For Adults?
Many people choose to pursue adult braces to improve their smiles. Straight teeth can give you a confidence boost, but they can also correct issues that only adults face. Aging, environmental issues, and bad habits can impact your smile, but adult orthodontia can help.
- Adult braces can help people struggling with periodontal problems.
- Braces can help prevent or reduce bone loss around your teeth.
- Adult orthodontia can improve function and strength for people who notice weakness or declining oral health.
- It’s easier to restore missing teeth with the aid of adult braces.
- Teeth straightening for adults can boost self-esteem.
For some people, braces aren’t an option until adulthood. Between tax returns and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), it may be easier to budget for braces as a working adult.
Can You Be Too Old for Braces?
You’re never too old for braces. Many orthodontists reported a notable increase in adult patients with plenty of them in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s. Between damaged teeth, lost teeth, and the push to preserve bone in your teeth and jaw, it’s not a tough sell for older adults to embrace braces.
Do Braces Take Longer As an Adult?
The duration of any orthodontic treatment varies between individuals and the severity of the issues that need correcting. That said, adult bones are denser, so adult treatment plans may take a little longer.
Do Adult Braces Cost More Than Adolescent Braces?
Adult braces may cost a little more since the treatment can last longer. However, between insurance and dental plans, it’s not difficult to find affordable braces options for adults.
Additional Considerations for Adult Braces
There are some key differences between adult braces and adolescent braces. Adult orthodontia generally addresses different issues, but orthodontists also have to account for other factors when treating adults.
- Age-related conditions, like bone loss and mild gingivitis, could alter the treatment plan for adults.
- Bite correction in adult orthodontia is more complex because of worn teeth, inability to create more space, and the bones are fully formed in adults.
- Tooth extraction and tooth loss could mean there is more bone loss for an adult than in an adolescent.
- Root resorption is a greater risk with adult braces. Adults need to be closely monitored for the condition which involves the body reabsorbing a tooth root leaving nothing to anchor the tooth to your jaw.
- Temporomandibular disorder (TMJ) is more common in adults and could impact your course of treatment.
- Braces are common for teens, but some adults struggle with having braces. The psychosocial implications for adult orthodontics should be discussed with your orthodontist as you build a treatment plan.
Orthodontic Treatment Options for Adults
Technology has changed the way we do braces. Even traditional braces are lower profile and lighter than before, making them more functional and efficient. When building a treatment plan with your orthodontist, you may want to consider all your braces options, including invisible braces for adults.
1. Traditional Metal Braces
Traditional metal braces are lighter, smaller, and more efficient than ever, but they remain a staple in orthodontic treatment. They slowly, gently shift your teeth with minimal discomfort during the process.
Orthodontists apply metal brackets to your teeth with special glue. Then, a wire is attached to elastic bands. At each visit, the wire is replaced to maintain the pressure necessary to move your teeth.
Traditional metal braces give your orthodontist more control over the progression. Changes tend to be noticeable earlier in the process than some other treatment options.
2. Clear and Ceramic Braces
Clear and ceramic braces function like traditional metal braces, but they are less noticeable. They are often called invisible braces because the brackets blend more with the natural color of your teeth.
3. Invisalign Clear Aligners
Of the braces options for adults, Invisalign is the least noticeable. You wear custom removable trays that fit perfectly over your teeth. Remove the trays to eat and drink, brush your teeth, and put the trays back in to go about your day.
The process involves scanning your teeth to build a 3D image of your mouth. Based on the 3D imaging, clear plastic trays are made custom for you. Each tray is worn for a week and then replaced with another one. As you progress through Invisalign trays, your teeth shift slightly.
Invisalign is an exciting option because it’s as close to invisible braces for adults as you can get, and they have a limited impact on daily life. Appointments are also faster and less frequent than other types of braces for adults, so it means less time off work or away from the family.
When Should I See an Orthodontist?
Children should be evaluated between the ages of 7 and 10, or if your dentist has suggested it. Adults may pursue orthodontics for cosmetic reasons, or because a dentist recommended them to seek treatment.
If you’re interested in discussing your orthodontic options, the team at Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics is happy to help. We offer affordable braces and orthodontic treatment to patients of all ages because we want everyone to have a healthy smile they deserve! Contact the office nearest you to get started!