When you think of braces, most people think of a teenager smiling broadly, showing brightly colored brackets.
While teenagers and adolescents make up nearly 75% of patients with braces, the popularity of braces among adults is growing. In fact, in 2014, the American Association of Orthodontists reported that nearly 1.5 million adults had braces.
Some orthodontists even report that their adult clientele had jumped from 10% of their practice to a whopping 50% in the last 10 years!
The reality is that, as you age, braces can actually become increasingly more important to maintain both the health and cosmetic appearance of your smile. There are good reasons for this growing trend.
For children and adults, the reasons for needing braces are generally the same. Straight teeth and well-aligned bites come with many health benefits. When teeth and jaws are properly aligned, oral functions such as biting, chewing, and speaking are all improved. Misalignment of jaws, known as malocclusion, can put excess stress on your jaw, causing pain. Crooked and overlapping teeth can be difficult to clean, resulting in tooth decay or gum disease. Straight teeth are easier to thoroughly clean, leading to the better overall health of your body.
For adults, braces often perform an even more important function. As people age, teeth may be chipped, cracked, missing, or need to be pulled due to tooth decay, gum disease, or trauma. This may lead to a need for prosthetics or implants, which often times means that space needs to be opened up in the mouth or bones to accommodate this more complex dental work. In these cases, straightening of the teeth or the correction of a bite may lay the foundation for dental work that is both cosmetic and medical in function.
This growing trend in adults wearing braces is also connected to adults living longer than they did in the past. While just a couple of decades ago getting dentures seemed like the norm as people aged, that trend is rapidly changing. Fewer people are losing their teeth, and there are more options for better orthodontic and dental care. This is prompting adults, even in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, to consider braces. There are three main reasons for this. First, braces are linked to enhanced dental and overall health. As adults are living longer and hoping to keep their natural teeth, they are recognizing that one key to fighting tooth decay and gum disease is the proper jaw alignment and straight teeth that are achieved with braces. Second, some of these adults had braces in their youth, but have had significant tooth movement since that time. Whether they stopped wearing their retainers or had some sort of trauma, they want to get orthodontic treatment so that they can have a healthy, beautiful smile once more. Lastly, as adults live longer, braces become even more of an investment. While you or your parents may not have been able to afford braces when you were younger, braces may have become financially feasible for you as they are now more affordable, and you may have become more financially secure. Paired with this, getting braces now may mean that you reap the benefits for many more decades. Deciding to get braces later in life still provides you with the opportunity to have a vibrant, healthy set of teeth for the rest of your life.
In terms of treatment options, age does not usually affect what types of braces are available to you. The full range of options can be used for adults. Both metal and ceramic braces are available, although often times adults are more self-conscious about braces being visible. This leads to adults opting for the more discreet, tooth-colored ceramic braces. Invisible braces are also growing in popularity among adult patients because they offer the cosmetic advantage of being nearly invisible. Your orthodontist will partner with you in deciding which treatment option best fits your needs and lifestyle.
While treatment options usually remain the same, it is important to recognize that treatment for adults can vary from treatment of children in other ways. Children’s mouths are still forming and growing, often making movement easier. Adults, on the other hand, have jaws and teeth that are fully formed. This may cause movement to take a bit longer. It also means that some structural changes can only be accomplished with the help of surgery. Similarly, children usually have thick, healthy gums. As you age, you are more likely to have dental problems like bone loss or receding gums. If you are actively battling against periodontal disease, it is important to work on improving your gum health before you pursue braces. Your orthodontist and dentist should work closely together to make sure that any periodontal disease is under control so that your treatment is not obstructed by the loss of gum or bone. It is important to make sure both your gums and teeth are healthy enough to withstand the pressure that braces use to straighten your teeth.
There are so many benefits to seeking orthodontic treatment at any age, but adults have an advantage because they are generally better at being consistent with their dental hygiene routine. Hygiene is incredibly important throughout the process of orthodontic treatment. Clean teeth move faster! Additionally, adults are more likely to be careful about avoiding hard, sticky, or sugary foods like hard candy, popcorn, or gum. This means that even though adult bones are not as malleable, average treatment lengths often do not vary from the common adolescent timeline of two years, due to more intentional care of braces and teeth. Adults are also usually more consistent in wearing their retainers to preserve their beautiful smiles after their braces are off.
Often, adults start to consider getting braces while their children are wearing braces. Your frequent trips to the orthodontist’s office and seeing your child’s teeth positively change can begin to make you hopeful about the possibility of your smile changing for the better, as well! However, footing the bill for more than one set of braces at a time may seem daunting. It is important to look at the long term financial and health benefits of adult braces.
As you age, if you do not take care of your teeth, both the physical, emotional, and financial stress can start to accumulate. Not only can poor dental health due to bad bites or crooked teeth take a toll on your physical health, it can also be painful and stressful. Dental bills for cavities, root canals, or periodontal disease treatment can start to add up. Add to that the cost of dentures, veneers, extractions, or any medical bills associated with poor dental health, the bill can look downright frightening. Yes, braces may be an upfront cost. However, the benefits of greater health, increased self-confidence, and a vibrant, natural smile far outweigh the cost.
The good news is that at Jungle Roots our team is prepared to walk you through financial planning every step of the way. In our many years of providing a dental home for your children and young adults, we have established a variety of resources to make dental care affordable. Now that we can be the orthodontic home for your entire family, all these resources can be used to make orthodontic care affordable for you. We have customized payment options and will work with any insurance company that will assign Jungle Roots as your provider. We accept Care Credit, and our financial experts will work with you to maximize your FSA and HSA benefits. We believe that every smile matters, at every age!
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.