Adult OrthodonticsAs an adult, you may think you’ve left it too late to get braces to straighten your teeth and give you the smile you’ve always longed for. Think again. Nowadays, people of all ages have braces fitted – not just kids and teens.

In fact, more and more people are taking advantage of the many benefits of adult orthodontics. According to the American Association of Orthodontists1 (AAO), the number of adults opting for orthodontic treatment rose by 40 percent from 1989 to 2012. By 2014, orthodontists in the U.S. and Canada were seeing 1.4 million patients.

If you decide braces are a good idea for you as an adult, you’ll be in good company. Celebrities who’ve undergone orthodontic treatment as adults include Hollywood megastar Tom Cruise and Grammy Award-winning country music singer Faith Hill.

However, adult orthodontics goes much farther than making you look like a star – it can improve your oral health as well as enhance your smile and self-confidence.

Health Benefits of Adult Orthodontics

Studies have shown that adults are just as likely to need braces as youngsters, and misaligned teeth can increase the danger of serious health problems for your teeth and gums.

Many people opt for adult orthodontic treatment to maintain the health of their teeth for longer. This makes sense when you consider that people in the U.S. are now generally living longer.

The number of Americans aged 65 or over is expected to reach 98 million by 2060. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, more and more people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s are getting braces.

Another reason adults get braces is that their teeth may have shifted out of place due to natural growth, a medical condition or an injury. This is why some individuals who had braces as a youngster may need them in later life to prevent the dental problems associated with crooked teeth. Or maybe you didn’t use your retainers for long enough – orthodontists today say retainers should be worn for much longer than recommended in previous decades.

Another health benefit of adult orthodontics is that straight teeth are easier to keep clean. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention2 (CDC) say over 95 percent of people aged 65-plus have suffered tooth decay, and one in five of them has lost all their teeth.

Lessening the Risk of Gum disease

Besides tooth decay, another leading cause of tooth loss is gum disease, a problem arising from a build-up of bacteria and plaque. A faulty bite or misaligned teeth increases the risk of gum infections.

Other health issues that adult orthodontics can help to prevent include:

  • Erosion of tooth enamel.
  • Jaw bone loss.
  • Jaw disorders such as temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD/TMJD).

Orthodontic Treatment Ahead of Dental Implants

Adult orthodontics can also facilitate dental implant treatment that might otherwise be ruled out. If you’re thinking about getting implants to replace a few missing teeth, the surrounding teeth need to be straight.

Replacing missing teeth is important – your teeth play a critical role in the structure of your mouth as well as enabling you to speak and eat properly – and dental implants are widely regarded as a healthier alternative to traditional dentures.

Potential Medical Complications from Orthodontic Issues

Problems from an irregular bite or crooked teeth may go beyond mouth and jaw health issues. For instance, if you can’t chew your food properly, you could be putting yourself at risk of malnourishment or gastrointestinal problems.

Apart from tooth and jaw bone loss, gum disease related to orthodontic problems may be linked to other medical conditions such as:

  • Lung infection.
  • Heart disease.
  • Stroke.
  • Alzheimer's.
  • Cancer.

Cosmetic Benefits of Adult Orthodontics

Your smile is one of the first things people notice about you and it can have a positive impact on those around you. If you’re too self-conscious to smile because of misaligned teeth, you may unwittingly be sending out the wrong message.

However, you’re never too old for a smile makeover to boost your professional and social life. Straightening your teeth can help lift your self-regard and enhance your communication skills as you display your rejuvenated smile in full confidence. You may feel more inclined to take more initiative in making new acquaintances and feel more relaxed among friends and colleagues you already know.

Research by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry3 (AACD) suggests that people with a winning smile are seen as being smart and successful, while the American Journal of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics4 (AJO-DO) asserts that your appearance can influence your ability to land a job, because candidates with “ideal” smiles are considered more intelligent.

Pros and Cons of Adult Orthodontics

Advances in orthodontic technology have made the process of having braces fitted far easier, so pain is no longer an issue, although you may experience some discomfort at first.

Getting braces as an adult can present some challenges. It typically takes longer to reposition misaligned teeth as you get older – children’s jaw bones are still flexible – so may need to have a little patience.

On the other hand, adults tend to look after their braces better than kids, who may also be less compliant about avoiding certain foods or wearing retainers.

A further benefit of adult orthodontics is that modern braces are less conspicuous and more effective and affordable compared with those of yesteryear.

Your Braces Options

Braces have evolved enormously over the years, and a specialist in adult orthodontics5 can help you to decide which type of treatment is best for you, from a wide range of options including:

  • Metal braces – still a popular choice for adults and ideal for rectifying serious overcrowding of teeth.
  • Ceramic braces – often preferred by adults because of their clear or tooth-colored brackets.
  • Invisalign aligners – removable, plastic appliances that are practically invisible.

Some medical insurance plans may not include orthodontic care for adults because it’s considered a cosmetic treatment (apparently ignoring the health benefits). If the cost of adult orthodontic treatment is holding you back from getting the treatment you need, look for an orthodontic practice that will allow you to spread out payments over time.