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Say cheese! No? We hear you. Crooked teeth affect everything from self-esteem to dental health, which is why parents spare no expense to ensure their kids end up with perfect pearly whites. But what about adults who missed this rite of passage? Or are experiencing teeth crowding or other issues later in life? To get the scoop on adult orthodontia, we asked doctors Mark A. Vitale, DMD, president of the New Jersey Dental Association, and Robert Peterman, DMD, board member of the New Jersey Association of Orthodontists, our most pressing questions.
My teeth are crooked, but I’m no tween—how old is too old for braces?
You’re never too old. “I recently finished treatment on a woman who’s 80,” says Peterman. “The only requirement for a person to have treatment is healthy gums and teeth.” In fact, adults seeking orthodontic treatment in the US and Canada increased 16 percent from 2012 to 2014, according to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). Today, 1 in 4 orthodontic patients are adults over 18.
It seems so…superficial. Are there any other good reasons to get my teeth fixed?
You bet. “By properly aligning teeth thus eliminating crowded, crooked and spaced teeth, it’s easier to keep [them] clean, reducing decay and gum disease,” says Vitale. “This correct alignment can also assist in eliminating jaw problems like TMJ.” Bonus: You’ll save time and money by avoiding expensive dental work down the road.
Sold. What kind of braces should I get?
The most common options include traditional metal, clear ceramic (similar to the former but less conspicuous), Invisalign (clear, removable aligners), lingual (brackets glued to the backside of teeth) and self-ligating (which forgo traditional elastic bands in favor of brackets with an adjustable arch wire clip). “Self-ligating braces…tend to be slightly gentler and cause less discomfort,” says Peterman. “They also tend to create wider smiles and are smaller than other types of braces.” Each type has pros and cons, so discuss the options with your orthodontist before making a decision.
Talk to me specifically about Invisalign.
As long as you don’t suffer from a complicated condition like severely misaligned teeth, Invisalign may be the most attractive choice. “It’s more aesthetic due to the nature of the clear aligners versus brackets and wires,” says Vitale. It works via a series of clear, custom-made weekly aligners that incrementally nudge teeth into place—all without a glint of metal. Pros: Removable aligners allow for proper oral hygiene and look amazing on date night. Cons: They need to be taken out every time you eat (a problem if you’re a grazer) and are easy to lose.
How long will it take?
How badly misaligned or crowded are your teeth? “I would say on average, treatment can last between 12-24 months,” says Peterman.
I’m pretty busy. Do I have to get adjustments every month?
Actually, visits are typically every six to eight weeks—about as often as you get your hair colored (or should).
Will I be carded?
You know it.