Everyone deserves a smile they can be proud of, and many achieve straightened, well-aligned teeth after undergoing orthodontic treatment as a child. But for adults who do not have the privilege of having straight teeth, orthodontics are still an option. In fact, there is no such thing as being too old for orthodontic treatment. More adults than ever are seeking straighter teeth – perhaps due to advancements in modern dentistry that allow for more discreet and less invasive orthodontic treatments. And braces aren’t becoming popular for cosmetic reasons alone. Rather, many adults are realizing the long-term oral health benefits associated with having straighter teeth.
Did you know?
There are many myths surrounding braces and adult orthodontics:
- MYTH: Adults don’t get braces.
- FACT: Approximately 20 percent of all orthodontic patients are adults over age 18.
- MYTH: Braces are too embarrassing as an adult.
- FACT: Today’s braces can be made from ceramic to blend in with your natural tooth shade. Many adults also opt for removable braces made of clear and discreet aligning trays.
- MYTH: I don’t want to spend years in braces.
- FACT: You probably won’t have to. Many adults complete orthodontic treatment in just months.
You may be a candidate for adult orthodontics if your teeth are crowded, overlapping, crooked, or have gaps between them. To find out more about your treatment options, schedule a consultation with your orthodontist.
During your orthodontic screening, you will undergo an examination and digital imaging to determine the position of your teeth and bite. Your orthodontist will map out a treatment plan designed to give you the straightest teeth possible in the least amount of time. Depending on the type of braces you choose – traditional or removable – you’ll be fitted for your appliance and given instructions on how frequently to return for follow-up appointments.
Yes. If you are wearing clear aligners, you’ll need to change out your trays every few days or weeks. You’ll also be instructed to wear your aligners at all times, with the exception of during meals and while brushing your teeth. If you have traditional metal or ceramic braces, you may be given special instructions to avoid biting down on hard or chewy foods, such as popcorn kernels, ice and taffy.
The majority of patients undergoing orthodontic care are children and teens. When kids are young, their jaws are constantly growing to accommodate new teeth. It is during this time that the teeth are easily moved, allowing for a shorter treatment time – especially in patients who undergo early treatment. Braces, retainers, and spacers are just some of the orthodontic appliances commonly used in children’s orthodontics. Although not all kids need orthodontic treatment, all kids need exams at an early age. Some signs that a child may eventually require orthodontic treatment include:
Did you know?
that children should have their first orthodontic screening no later than age 7? This orthodontic evaluation is used to identify jaw irregularities and developmental complications that could indicate the need for orthodontic treatment in the future. Early screenings make it possible to get early treatment, with some children beginning progressive orthodontic treatments as early as age 7.
If your child is at least 7 years old or is exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, you should schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Your child’s orthodontist can take steps to correct a bad bite, fill in gaps, and straighten the teeth all before your child reaches the teen years.
Your child’s first orthodontic screening will include a visual examination as well as maxillofacial x-rays. Your child’s orthodontist may also ask you questions about your child’s habits, such as thumb and finger-sucking. Based on the results of this analysis, the orthodontist will discuss options and timeframes for treatment if applicable.
Yes. If your child is fitted for a fixed orthodontic appliance, such as braces, you will need to follow careful instructions to ensure the device is not damaged or broken. This includes monitoring your child’s diet to ensure it does not include hard foods, candies, popcorn kernels, or anything else that could cause damage. You’ll also need to ensure your child properly brushings and flosses around the appliance to protect the teeth from decay during treatment.
Orthodontic emergencies can occur at any time during treatment and often pertain to complications with appliances. An orthodontic emergency is any circumstance that causes pain, threatens a patient’s health, or interferes with the course of orthodontic treatment. An emergency orthodontist can offer immediate assistance for emergencies, some of which include:
Did you know?
Never attempt to handle an orthodontic or dental emergency on your own. If you suffer a trauma or injury to your teeth or notice that your gums have become infected or swollen, your emergency will be better served by your family dentist. Keep in mind that some emergencies are serious and require emergency medical attention. If, for example, you or your child has swallowed part of an orthodontic appliance, dial 9-1-1 or go straight to your nearest hospital emergency department.
If you feel that you are experiencing a minor emergency related to your orthodontic appliance, contact your orthodontist’s office to find out when you can schedule an emergency visit. While you wait, your orthodontist may recommend temporary solutions to your emergency, such as placing wax on the end of a broken wire that is poking your gums or cheeks.
During your visit, your orthodontist will repair or replace broken appliances. Keep in mind that broken appliances can prolong your orthodontic treatment, so speak with your orthodontist about how your emergency may affect your treatment.
Be sure to follow the instructions provided to you for caring for your orthodontic appliance. This may include avoiding hard or chewy foods like ice and caramel candies, and being sure to wear mouth guards to protect fixed appliances during high-impact activity. You should also avoid ‘playing’ with or picking at your appliances, as this can cause damage. And as always, you should continue to see your family dentist for routine cleanings and periodic check-ups throughout your course of orthodontic treatment.
Two-phase orthodontic treatment is a dual step method of aligning a child’s teeth and producing a functional bite. Usually, two-step orthodontic treatments begin between the ages of 7 and 9, when many of the primary teeth remain in a child’s mouth. The braces stay on for a year or two, after which time they are removed and replaced with a retainer. This resting phase lasts about 3 years, after which time children return to the orthodontist for the second phase of treatment. From start to finish, two phase orthodontics can take 5 years or more, but most orthodontists and parents believe the results are often worth the extended treatment time.
Did you know…
the American Association of Orthodontists endorses early childhood orthodontic treatments? The Association recommends an initial screening for every child no later than age 7. Because children this age have achieved approximately 80 percent of their total facial growth, a first phase of treatment during this time period can leverage remaining growth. By the time they reach age 11 or 12 (when the second phase of treatment is initiated), children have achieved more than 90 percent of their lifetime facial growth.
The only way to know if your child needs orthodontic treatment of any kind is by visiting an orthodontist. Children as young as 4 can be screened, although the AAO recommends waiting no longer than age 7. If your child is over age 7 and has not yet been screened, make an appointment for a consultation at your earliest convenience.
Between the first and second treatment phases, you’ll need to bring your child to the orthodontist periodically to monitor progress and check the condition of your child’s retainer. He or she may also need occasional x-rays to ensure everything is progressing smoothly and as planned. Once your child has lost his or her final primary tooth, you’ll return yet again to get the second set of braces – usually around the age of 12.
Yes. Orthodontic appliances are designed for durability but can easily break when not cared for. You’ll need to ensure your child is following all directions for brushing around the braces and also exclude hard candies or foods that could damage the appliance components.
The field of orthodontics spans beyond corrective treatments. It also includes preventive care, which is used to prevent the development of a bad bite or crooked and overcrowded teeth. In fact, some children who undergo preventive treatments can avoid the need for far more invasive treatments later in life. By the time preventive orthodontic treatments are complete, children have an adequate amount of jaw space for permanent teeth to erupt.
Did you know?
It is important that your child undergoes an orthodontic screening no later than age 7. Preventive care is only effective when used early – usually while the majority of primary teeth are still intact. Some of the most common preventive orthodontic treatments in include:
- Space maintainers – to hold the space of a primary tooth that has fallen out prematurely
- Head gear – used to reposition the jaw and create space for permanent teeth
- Tooth extractions – used to remove primary teeth that have not fallen out on their own
Your child may need preventive care if he or she has malocclusion, inadequate jaw space, has teeth erupting in the wrong spaces, or has missing primary teeth lost due to decay or trauma. If you suspect that your child could need preventive orthodontic, schedule a consultation immediately.
Preventive treatment varies from child to child. Some types of preventive appliances are fixed in your child’s mouth, and require multiple visits to ensure a perfect fit. If your child’s appliance is removable, you will be given instructions on how and when your child should wear the device. You can also expect to make occasional orthodontic visits for the duration of your child’s preventive treatment to measure progress and make adjustments as needed.
Yes. In addition to ensuring your child’s appliance is being worn correctly, you’ll need to also prevent your child from consuming foods that could damage the appliance while being worn. If your child’s appliance is removable, you’ll need to clean it regularly and store it according to your orthodontist’s instructions.
Invisalign® is an orthodontic appliance system used to inconspicuously treat crooked and crowded teeth in adults and teens. This modern take on braces features a system of clear aligner trays that are worn at all times with the exception of during meals and when brushing or flossing. The trays are custom fitted to the teeth, making them virtually unnoticeable when laughing, talking, and eating with other people. Patients receive a sequence of trays, each of which is slightly different than the one before. The aligners provide a slight resistance to the teeth, forcing them to move into alignment over time. With Invisalign®, adults and teens can achieve the smiles they’ve always wanted without feeling self-conscious about the mode of treatment.
Did you know…
wearing Invisalign® is in no way as restrictive as traditional braces? Many adults opt for this system not only because it is discreet, but also because there is no need to change your diet to avoid foods that could damage braces. This is because the Invisalign® system is free of braces and brackets, instead opting for a removable tray that can be taken out prior to meals. Also, Invisalign® fits well into busy adult schedules, as there is no need to attend frequent visits for wire tightening. Most patients simply change to a new aligner tray every couple of weeks.
If you have crooked or crowded teeth that are embarrassing to you or otherwise preventing you from achieving optimal oral health, Invisalign® could be the solution for you. Visit your Invisalign® dentist for a complete consultation to find out if you could benefit from clear orthodontics.
You will wear your aligners nearly all of the time, with the exception of about two hours per day. Invisalign® treatments are different for everyone, but most patients can achieve their ideal smiles within one to two years. During that time, you can expect to make occasional dental visits to monitor your progress.
Following your treatment, you will no longer need to wear Invisalign® trays. However, you will need to wear a retainer each day to help protect your new smile. It is also important to continue visiting your dentist for routine check-ups and twice-yearly cleaning.