For years, pre-teens and teens ages 8 to 14 were the primary orthodontic patients, but today many adults seek treatment as well. In fact, about 1.4 million adult patients received braces or some other teeth straightening treatment in 2019 (according to data by the American Association of Orthodontists). The number of adult patients getting orthodontic treatment increased 18% from 2016 to 2018.
This trend of adults getting braces is not expected to change any time soon, as more and more grownups realize that it’s never too late to have braces put on to repair crooked teeth, correct bite problems, and improve smile. Here are some facts you need to know about braces for adults.
Adult braces are an option at any age.
As far as the age goes, there’s no set age for getting adult braces – some adults get braces when they’re 18, some get them when they are 30, and some even go for braces when they are 50! So adults of any age can wear braces provided their bones, gums and teeth are healthy enough to withstand the forces involved. Many adults who get braces never received orthodontic treatment when they were young, or their teeth may have started to shift later on in life due to a variety of factors such as wisdom teeth pushing through or missing teeth. Through braces for adults, these people are able to make their teeth and smile look as good as possible.
There’s not much difference between children and adult braces.
Adult patients undergoing orthodontia care will know that there isn’t really much difference between kids and adult braces. In the general sense, the same design of the appliance is used; the materials used are fairly the same and so are the components used to trigger movement. Nonetheless, younger patients are usually inclined towards mini braces while grownups often find clear and ceramic braces more appealing. There are also other differences in terms of treatment (as we shall see below).
The process of placing adult braces can be complicated and there are often challenges and concerns that must first be addressed before installation.
Orthodontic treatment for adult patients is often fraught with challenges. Firstly, adult patients tend to have some level of tooth decay or gum disease. They may also have undergone some form of restorative or cosmetic dental procedure like fillings, crowns, bridges or root canals. These issues may pose risks during treatment. Before adult braces are installed, the orthodontist will evaluate any prior treatments and issues that could bring complications and find ways to tackle them. Any form of tooth decay or gum disease must first be corrected before braces are put on.
Also, because adult teeth and gums are not as flexible as those of children and teens, the braces tend to cause sensitivity or even pain when pressure is applied in some patients. Some adults may find wearing traditional metal braces very uncomfortable. Many adult orthodontia patients also report that wearing dental braces makes their teeth to feel a bit loose, but this problem normally disappears once the treatment is complete.
Braces for adults come in a variety of options.
There are four main types of adult braces to choose from: metal braces, invisible orthodontics, ceramic braces and lingual braces. Traditional metal braces are the most inexpensive. They are also extremely effective at straightening teeth, but have one massive drawback – they are very noticeable and aesthetically unappealing. Adults who are conscious about their looks prefer the more modern options like invisible or concealed braces.
Invisible (Invisalign) braces utilize a series of clear, customized, removable aligners to straighten teeth. These braces are practically invisible and can be removed when necessary, like when brushing, flossing, or during meals. However, these braces work best for adult patients who don’t have significant teeth problems.
Ceramic braces are another less noticeable option for patients who are conscious of their appearance. The ceramic brackets are crafted to blend in with the teeth so they are not noticeable. However, they are prone to staining from certain foods and beverages and can break or chip.
Lingual braces are brackets that are customized and installed to hide behind the teeth, and this also makes them a great option for adults concerned with aesthetics. They require a trained and skillful orthodontist to place them through a complicated process. Because of this, these braces tend to be more expensive than other types of braces.
Braces for adults are worn for a longer period of time.
Children braces deliver teeth straightening results very fast. But the same cannot be said of adult braces. On average, the treatment time for teens and pre-teens is 18 months, compared to 24 to 36 months for adult orthodontic patients. The longer treatment time for adults is because the adult’s teeth and bones are already fully developed and rigid and, therefore, take longer to shift to the correct positions. The teeth move slowly in adults and their muscles and bone also take longer to heal. However, the exact length of treatment time can vary depending on the complexity of the case or the level of correction needed.
Fees for adult braces are slightly higher than those required for younger patients.
Braces for adults typically cost more than kid’s braces. This is because the orthodontic treatment for adults is more complex and there often accompanying teeth conditions that orthodontists are forced to address during the installation. A lot of preparation and follow-up treatment are required for adult braces, and this can significantly increase the cost of the procedure. Typically, prices vary across the country, but adults pay $6000 – $8500 for braces on average.
Still on matters of cost, it’s worth noting that regular health insurance doesn’t cover adult braces; and even for those with private dental insurance, the out of pocket expenses are higher compared to those of kids braces.
Braces for adults offer many benefits.
Braces for adults offer an effective solution for correcting problems, such as crooked teeth, teeth crowding, underbites and overbites, jaw joint disorders or incorrect jaw positioning. When left unaddressed, these problems can lead to complications such as tooth decay, gum disease, earaches, headaches as well as chewing, biting or speech problems. Braces allow adults to overcome these problems and improve teeth function, facial appearance and oral health. By correcting malocclusions, adult patients are also able to realize improved self-confidence and self-esteem.