For Children and Adults
Orthodontics for Children
It's best for the orthodontist to see children by age 7 to advise if orthodontic treatment is required and it is the best time for that patient to be treated. The first permanent molars and incisors have usually come in by that time and crossbites, crowding, and other problems can be evaluated. When treatment is begun early, the orthodontist can guide the growth of the jaw and guide incoming permanent teeth. Early treatment can also regulate the width of the upper and lower dental arches, gain space for permanent teeth, avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions, reduce likelihood of impacted permanent teeth, correct thumb-sucking, and eliminate abnormal swallowing or speech problems. In other words, early treatment can simplify later treatment.
Orthodontics for Adults
Do Adults Really Get Braces?
Absolutely. Many people did not get braces when they were young. Either their parents could not afford braces, or their teeth could not be straightened with the techniques of 40 years ago. Now they have problems with their jaw, teeth and gums, or access to proper cleaning is difficult, or they are just unhappy with their smile. They can afford braces now, and want to do something for themselves so they get braces.
Other people did have orthodontic treatment when they were young, but they did not wear their retainers. The result is that their teeth have relapsed and are now a little bit crooked. They are unhappy with their smile so they seek orthodontic treatment. In addition, may adults get orthodontic treatment to position their teeth in the proper position for future implant placement or esthetic restorative dentistry. Presently, as many as 30% of orthodontic patients are adults. It is quite a change from 20 years ago when orthodontists were only treating children.
Are there any age limits?
No, there are no age limits. Orthodontic treatment goes a little slower when you are older, and it feels different. Still, people as old as 90 are getting braces. People who live to 90 know how important it is to take care of themselves and their teeth, and orthodontic treatment is part of it.
Why Do Adults Get Braces?
Most adults get orthodontic treatment because they realize that taking care of your smile is part of taking care of yourself. Your smile is the most important feature on your face. Look in the mirror. Are you happy with your smile now? Does your smile look as good as it did when you were younger? What do you think about someone who has a pleasing smile. Do you find them attractive? What do you think about someone who has an awful smile? Do they look old and haggard? Orthodontic treatment can keep your smile from looking old and haggard. At the end of orthodontic treatment, people's smiles end up looking fabulous. Wouldn't it be great if you looked fabulous.
Are There Health Advantages To Adult Orthodontic Treatment?
Yes. When your teeth are crooked, they are harder to clean and will wear unevenly. Your gums can get inflamed and your teeth hurt. Eventually, you will lose your teeth. Orthodontic treatment can inhibit gum problems and prevent tooth loss. Also, remember that chewing is the first part of digestion. If you do not chew your food properly, the rest of you digestive system will have to work harder.
How is adult orthodontic treatment different than teenage orthodontic treatment?
It is basically the same, with a few minor differences. One difference is that the treatment takes longer. As you get older, you heal more slowly. As a result, the orthodontist needs to be more gentle with his treatment. The orthodontist can still move your teeth, but the orthodontist needs to move your teeth more slowly to let your mouth heal between tightening appointments.
The other difference is that it is harder to enlarge your mouth to get all of your teeth to fit. When you are growing, your jaw is like clay; if your mouth is too small for your teeth, the orthodontist can stretch your mouth so everything fits. Once you stop growing, your jaw hardens; it is difficult for an orthodontist to stretch your jaw. Some people elect to have their jaw enlarged surgically. However, most adults decide to have their teeth straightened, but not get their jaw enlarged.
What does adult orthodontic treatment feel like?
When the orthodontist first puts your braces on, your mouth will be tender for about a week, but then the tenderness should go away, and you will hardly notice your braces except when they are tightened. Most adults say that after they start orthodontic treatment, their teeth feel like they have come loose. Your teeth get anchored to your jaw with little filaments. The orthodontist needs to loosen those filaments before your teeth will move. As a result, your teeth feel loose. Still the loose feeling is nothing to worry about. The filaments will tighten again once your orthodontic treatment is done.
Will I be stuck with a "metal mouth" look when I have braces?
Definitely not. Braces have changed a lot in the last 20 years and you do not have to get a metal mouth when you get braces. Jaw surgery is more often required for adult orthodontic patients because their jaws are not growing. Adults also may have experienced some breakdown or loss of their teeth and bone that supports the teeth and may require periodontal treatment before, during and/or after orthodontic treatment. Bone loss can also limit the amount and direction of tooth movement that is advisable.