Thanks to popular media, we tend to associate braces and other teeth-adjusting orthodontics with nerdy teenage kids. They get lumped together with acne, broken glasses, and getting bullied, but orthodontics isn’t just for kids anymore. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, one out of every four orthodontic patients is an adult. What do you need to know about adult orthodontics?
Why Fix Crooked Teeth?
If you’ve lived with them all your life, why should you bother fixing them now that you’re an adult? In addition to self-confidence issues, misaligned teeth can contribute to many dental health problems. It makes it more difficult to keep your teeth clean, which can in turn increase your risk for things like tooth decay and gum disease. These misalignments can also interfere with proper chewing and can strain the muscles of your neck and jaw.
Some misalignments are obvious and easy to spot while others, especially things like a very mild under or overbite, might require x-rays and skilled dentists or orthodontists to spot.
Adult vs Teen Treatment
Orthodontic treatment might look a bit different for an adult than it would have if you fixed these alignment issues as a teen, but the differences aren’t that dramatic.
One major difference is the amount of time that you’ll spend wearing braces or using appliances like Invisalign. Teeth are still growing and shifting during your teen years, so it’s easier to straighten them because they haven’t locked themselves into place yet. Orthodontics isn’t impossible for adults, but it can take quite a bit longer to achieve the same results.
Traditional vs. Modern Braces
You’re probably most familiar with more traditional braces — the metal brackets cemented to each tooth and connected with wire that an orthodontist can tighten or loosen depending on the treatment plan. While these are an option, they aren’t the only way you can straighten your teeth. Invisalign and similar systems work by moving your way through a series of clear retainer-like appliances that slowly adjust your teeth. Your orthodontist might even recommend clear braces instead which work just like traditional metal braces but use ceramic brackets which blend in with your teeth.
Bad Habits to Avoid
As adults, we’ve had years to build bad habits that can negatively impact our dental health. Even if you brush and floss every day, grinding your teeth or drinking lots of acidic drinks can make it harder to maintain your teeth. If you have braces on, you’ll also need to avoid specific foods, such as crunchy or sticky snacks, because they can damage the braces and, in turn, your teeth as well.
Good Habits to Build
Having braces means building up some new good habits to replace the bad ones you’ve developed over the years. First, you need to establish a thorough brushing and flossing habit. Unlike regular brushing, you need to break out the toothbrush after every meal or snack, not just twice a day.
Yes, we understand that traditional flossing can be challenging with brackets and wires in the way, but it’s essential to keeping your teeth healthy while you straighten them. Invest in an orthodontic flosser to make the job easier, or a Waterpik or other water flosser to eliminate the need for regular floss. Don’t forget the mouthwash!
Improving YoUR tEETH
If you start researching what it will take to fix your teeth, you’ll likely start seeing targeted ads for at-home kits like Invisalign that send you everything you need to take impressions of your teeth and create your teeth straightening journey at home.
While this might seem convenient, orthodontic adjustments should always be made under the supervision of a dental professional. There may be underlying dental health issues that your dentist needs to address that won’t show up in a set of tooth impressions.
Moving teeth as an adult can also trigger a process known as root resorption. Root resorption is when the body starts to absorb a tooth’s roots, causing it to loosen. It’s the process that allows your baby teeth to fall out when you’re young. In adults, root health needs to be monitored, and any signs of resorption need to be treated quickly.
Another option to help improve the look of your teeth and disguise the gaps could be composite veneers. Composite veneers are a fantastic way to enhance the smile and is something you might want to consider.
Orthodontics aren’t just for awkward teenagers, and if you’ve spent your entire life with misaligned teeth, getting braces to fix these problems can help keep your teeth healthy for years to come. Make sure you’re working with a dentist and an orthodontist, and take excellent care of your teeth while you’re wearing the braces. Don’t let social stigmas scare you away from talking to your dentist about orthodontics as an adult. Fixing misaligned teeth can make a world of difference for your physical and dental health as well as your confidence and self-esteem.