When adults start to explore the idea of seeking orthodontic treatment for their dental misalignments, one of the most common concerns they have is that it is simply too late. Some have even spent a good bit of their adult life resigned to the idea that they have no option but to live with crooked teeth. We’re always happy to clear up that misconception—there is no set age limit on when you can treat malocclusion. In fact, 1 in 4 orthodontic patients today is an adult, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. However, adult orthodontic treatment does differ from adolescent treatment. Here’s what you need to know.
Special Considerations for Adults
In general, younger patients are considered ready for braces or Invisalign when they have a complete set of permanent teeth (though some may benefit from earlier intervention, known as Phase I treatment, while they still have baby teeth). However, adults need to meet certain other requirements to ensure they’re good candidates for orthodontic treatment. Most important is that a patient needs to have healthy teeth and a normal jawbone. If the teeth and bone are not healthy, gum disease, tooth decay, and jaw issues could result as a side effect of treatment.
Establishing good oral health may mean that adult patients need other dental treatment prior to starting orthodontics. If you’re at risk for or already have gum disease, you may be referred to a periodontist. Similarly, if you need a filling, root canal, or other dental treatment, you’ll need to take care of that first.
Finally, because adults have stopped growing, certain severe misalignments may be harder to treat. Adult braces alone can’t fix some structural problems—to achieve the same results that are possible with Phase I treatment on children, oral surgery may be necessary. However, for patients who don’t want surgery, it is still possible to achieve an attractive result through a technique called camouflage, which disguises skeletal abnormalities while avoiding more drastic interventions.
On the plus side, adult patients have a high success rate with orthodontics when they seek treatment. Why? Because adults tend to listen to their dentists and orthodontists well and follow the instructions they’re given more closely. They also tend to have better and more consistent oral hygiene habits than adolescents. Given that patient compliance is a big factor in orthodontic success, this is a considerable advantage!
Adult Concerns About Orthodontics
Mistaken ideas about timing aren’t the only reason adults don’t seek orthodontic care earlier. Self-consciousness about the appearance of braces or worries about the inconvenience and length of treatment are typical issues that prospective patients bring up. While these are certainly factors to consider, updated treatment modalities give adults many alternatives to choose from to fit their lifestyle and needs.
Appearance: Few adults are thrilled at the idea of wearing metal braces, particularly when they want to maintain a professional appearance. Thankfully, metal braces are a choice and not an inevitability now. Depending on the individual treatment needs of the patient, Invisalign, clear braces, or lingual braces can be used to straighten the teeth without it being obvious.
Diet and lifestyle changes: Wearing braces does necessitate certain restrictions to what you eat, such as avoiding crunchy and sticky foods. While this might seem like a huge inconvenience, in practice we find that adult patients who opt for braces quickly get used to their new eating habits—especially because they only have to follow those rules as long as they have braces on, not forever. When patients really want to have the freedom to eat whatever they want, Invisalign is a good alternative, because the clear aligners are removed when eating.
Length of treatment: Sometimes adults believe that delaying orthodontics means their treatment will last longer than it would have if they’d gotten braces as a teen. This isn’t the case. Adult treatment usually takes around the same time adolescent treatment would have.
It’s also possible to tailor a treatment plan to address a single complaint, such as closing a noticeable gap between two teeth. This usually takes a shorter amount of time, and is a good alternative for patients who understand the limits of this type of focused intervention. Regardless of a patient’s preferred approach, the best way to ensure that treatment doesn’t take longer than expected is to follow your orthodontist’s directions and take good care of your teeth. Because the adults we see tend to be committed to their treatment and eager to see the great results, they make excellent partners in their own care!
Beautiful Smiles at Any Age
If you have questions about what adult orthodontic treatment might look like for you, B Orthodontics is here to help. We create individualized treatment plans for each patient to achieve the healthy bite and straight teeth they’ve dreamed of. Our goal is to bring effective treatment within reach for everybody—we work with most insurance providers to make the most of your benefits, as well as offering flexible payment plans to keep treatment affordable. Don’t wait any longer to make your crooked teeth a thing of the past. To schedule your initial consultation, contact us here today.