Today, one in four orthodontic patients is an adult. Leaving misaligned teeth untreated may lead to other dental problems such as tooth decay, gum disease and difficulty chewing. Orthodontic treatment creates a better bite, making teeth fit better and decreasing the risk of future dental problems regardless of age.
Advances in orthodontics have also made treatment more comfortable and less noticeable than ever for individuals of all ages. Many of today’s treatment options are designed to minimize the appearance of the appliance to better fit any lifestyle. You can have a healthy, beautiful smile at any age. Orthodontic treatment today is a viable option for almost any adult. Like youngsters, adults can experience the self-assurance that comes with a confident smile, along with the benefits of improved oral health. Take this opportunity to explore answers to questions that others have asked about orthodontic treatment for adults.
Am I too old for orthodontic treatment?
You are never too old for orthodontic treatment. Your orthodontist considers many variables when developing your customized treatment plan, but age is rarely a deciding factor.
Can orthodontic treatment help me keep my teeth?
Teeth and jaws that are properly aligned are easier to keep clean through brushing and flossing. Correcting the bite (how the upper and lower teeth fit together) reduces improper forces placed on the teeth and improves your ability to bite and chew and improves the odds of keeping your teeth long-term.
What if I’m missing some teeth?
Depending on what is missing, your orthodontist may choose to move neighboring teeth together to close the space where the tooth is missing or hold open a space for a bridge or implant. Your orthodontist will work with your family dentist and/or other dental specialists.
How is adult orthodontic treatment similar to treatment for children/teens?
The biologic process of orthodontic treatment is the same, regardless of age. Teeth move in response to forces being placed on them over time. Many orthodontic problems can be corrected as easily for adults as for children/teens.
How is adult orthodontic treatment different from treatment for children/teens?
The biggest difference in orthodontics for adults vs. children/teens is that adults are no longer growing. Adult treatment may take slightly longer than treatment for children/teens with a similar problem due to the maturity and density of the bone adults have. Some medications, and habits like smoking, clenching or grinding teeth or tongue thrust can affect the outcome of treatment. It’s common for orthodontists to work with a patient’s family dentist to coordinate care. For some adults to reach optimal dental health, the dentist and orthodontist may need to call in other dental specialists such as oral surgeons periodontists and endodontists.
What is gum disease?
People may be unaware that they have gum disease because it does not hurt. The mildest form of gum disease is gingivitis. Untreated gum disease, or gingivitis, can get worse and become periodontitis as plaque spreads below the gums line. As the disease progresses, it progresses to advanced periodontitis. As unnerving as gum disease can be, it can be avoided. Teeth that are properly aligned are less prone to gum disease.
I have some crowns. Can my teeth be moved?
Yes. Teeth with crowns can be moved.
Should Adults Get Braces?
Adults of any age can get braces or aligners. Some adults also seek treatment to realign their teeth after the placement of dental crowns, implants, or veneers.
If you have any of the following misalignment issues, you may be a candidate for orthodontic treatment as an adult:
- Crooked teeth
- Crowded teeth
- Misplaced or spaced teeth (diastema)
- Open bite
- Deep bite
- Facial or jaw irregularities
The Difference Between Adult and Childhood Orthodontics
The most common age group that receives orthodontic treatment is children between 10 and 14 years of age. This is because all of their permanent teeth have grown in.
Any dental crowding and bite or alignment issues are also evident during the teenage years, making it an ideal time to get braces. Many of these children also get their braces on and off before high school begins.
The main difference between adult and childhood orthodontics is that there are fewer treatment options available.
Getting braces as a child or teenager allows for the use of other devices, if necessary. These devices include headgear, space maintainers, and/or palatal expanders.
Adults cannot use these orthodontic appliances because their jaws are fully developed, whereas a child’s jaw is still growing.
Types of Braces — 4 Common Treatment Options for Adults
Depending on your needs and desires, your orthodontist may recommend any of the following types of braces:
- Traditional Braces
Traditional metal braces are an affordable and effective treatment option. Metal braces fix severe or mild teeth crowding, most bite issues, and spaced teeth, among others.
The brackets on metal braces are gold or silver, with o-shaped rubber bands that tie around each one. Traditional braces are also durable, strong, and can withstand most treatment forces.
Traditional metal braces are common among children and teens. Adults can also get them if they do not mind having visible brackets on their teeth for a long period of time.
- Ceramic Braces
Ceramic braces, which are often called “clear braces,” are similar to traditional metal braces because they have the same functionality. They are also the same size and shape as metal braces.
However, ceramic braces consist of archwires and tooth-colored brackets, rather than silver or gold brackets. The o-shaped rubber bands around each bracket are also clear or white. This allows them to blend in better with your natural teeth.
While clear braces are still visible, many adults and teenagers prefer them over metal braces because they are more aesthetically pleasing.
- Lingual Braces
Lingual braces are also metal braces. However, instead of attaching to the front of your teeth, they are placed on the back of your teeth. They are the least visible form of metal braces but can be more uncomfortable since they are closer to your tongue.
- Clear Aligners
Clear aligners are a relatively new and popular form of orthodontic treatment.
Invisalign is the most widely-known and reputable brand. These aligners are a great option for younger and older adults because they are nearly invisible and removable. You will not have metal brackets and wires glued to your teeth.
Although there are many benefits of clear aligners, the main disadvantage is that they require upkeep.
You must remember to wear them for at least 22 hours per day. You’ll also receive a new set of aligners every one to two weeks.