Spoiler alert: You’re never too old for a perfect smile or relief from jaw joint discomfort.
Lack of access to proper dental care and economic hardship are two reasons parents don’t get their children’s teeth straightened. Or maybe some issues develop later in life. But times are changing, and with many dental benefit plans now covering braces and more employers offering FSAs, more adults are seeking out the beauty and function of a straight smile.
Orthodontics does more than create a beautiful smile. It can fix jaw alignment problems due to crooked and missing teeth. Orthodontic treatment can also help relieve certain TMJ problems that cause chronic pain, broken or chipped teeth, and headaches.
While the treatment is essentially the same regardless of age, there are some minor differences.
The length of treatment is one of the main differences between child and adult orthodontic cases, although it isn’t much longer. Children’s teeth move more quickly than adults because they are still growing and it’s easier to coax teeth into place. As a result, their treatment usually takes a little less time than an adult. Every case is unique, but an adult can expect treatment to last about two years, give or take.
Some adult cases require a helping hand. There are a few adult issues that can’t be fixed solely by orthodontics. In severe cases, like a narrow palate, a child would usually be fitted with a palatal expander that would slowly widen the roof of the mouth. When an adult has a narrow palate, surgery might be necessary to give the teeth space to move into their proper place because the bone has long since stopped growing and shifting on its own.
For many adults, the thought of wearing traditional metal braces for two years is enough to make them put off treatment. But with today’s technology, there is a straightening method for everyone!
Traditional braces are fixed to your teeth with dental cement. Some brackets are metal, others are plastic or porcelain, and some can even be cemented on the back (tongue side) of your teeth. Archwires are attached to the brackets on the molars and then threaded through the brackets of the other teeth and held into place using small O-rings. These come in a variety of colors and are changed each time you go in for an adjustment, usually every 4-6 weeks. Sometimes small elastic bands and other guides will be used to help shift a tooth in a specific way.
Traditional braces require dedication to homecare. Brushing after each meal and flossing at least once a day will help prevent plaque buildup around your brackets that can result in demineralization, staining, and decay. You also need to be diligent with professional cleanings and, depending on your unique case, may be placed on a shorter recare schedule, coming in every 3-4 months, versus every 6 months.
Clear aligners are made of medical-grade hard plastic trays that resemble whitening trays. They are worn for 22 hours per day and are removed for eating, brushing, and flossing. A digital model of your mouth is taken, and a series of trays are made, each pair moving your teeth just a little bit closer toward their ideal position.
In many cases, the continuous pressure on specific teeth means less discomfort and shorter treatment times. While aligner treatment works for 90% of straightening cases, some tooth movements may not be possible.
Orthodontics with either traditional brackets and wires, or clear aligners, produces straight teeth and proper jaw alignment; combining beauty and function. Identifying problems early in life may allow for faster treatment, but it’s never too late to have a gorgeous smile!