Braces for Adults

A woman with braces smiling.

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The propensity to straighten one’s teeth is nothing new. It dates all the way back to around 1,000 BC, where early dental practitioners fashioned cord from animal skin, then wrapped it around teeth. Folks back then just didn’t have the tools or technology to be very exacting. Not so today.

“We work in millimeter margins, so teeth movements are extremely precise,” explained Dr. Rebekah Anderson, a board-certified orthodontist at Holy City Orthodontics on Johns Island. “Both braces and clear aligners are generally very precise, and we’re able to accomplish similar movements with either appliance system.”

Orthodontic braces were once thought of as strictly for kids, but that’s also no longer the case. The American Association of Orthodontics estimated that 27% of all U.S. and Canadian orthodontic patients are adults. In fact, according to Dr. Anderson, 50% of her patients are adults, and some of them could be considered to be senior citizens.

“My current eldest patient is 78 years old. In fact, I have several patients in their 70s,” she said.

Some adults choose orthodontic care because, when they were younger, their family just couldn’t afford the procedure, or perhaps their parents decided against it.

“There is also a significant population of adults who actually had orthodontic treatment at a younger age but many have experienced some relapse after not continuing use of their retainers over time,” said Dr. Anderson.

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These individuals may want to bolster their confidence and self-esteem, or they may feel that crooked teeth could impact every aspect of their lives, from social gatherings and romantic situations to their professional careers. However, orthodontic procedures can provide much more than just that perfect smile.

Regarding self-administered orthodontics, Dr. Anderson cautioned, “Direct to consumer can be risky. It’s important to see an orthodontist for your oral care because we perform comprehensive and thorough medical histories and clinical evaluations on all patients before beginning treatment.”

She added, “We regularly identify issues from X-rays and discuss possible complications from medications the patient might be taking. Doctors know specific questions to ask and which conditions to look for to ensure treatment is safe and efficient.”

When considering adult orthodontic procedures, Dr. Anderson explained that braces and clear aligners are options and that the cost of both systems are the same in her office.

“Presently, there is a major social trend toward clear aligners, but we are still seeing many adults choose braces for their treatment,” she said. “We tell our patients that clear aligners give more flexibility to their diet and oral hygiene routine but require more compliance to keep up with the full-time wear. Braces, on the other hand, warrant avoidance of certain foods and an increased oral hygiene regimen, but they are always working without the patient having to insert or remove a tray. We want orthodontic treatment to fit into our patient’s lifestyle, so we make sure they are able to choose the system that is going to work best for them.”

A Few Health-related Benefits Derived of Perfectly Aligned Teeth

1. Superior brushing habits – Overlapping teeth can trap food particles, leading to plaque buildup and eventually to possible tooth decay and gingivitis. Straight teeth allow for more detailed dental cleaning.

2. Thorough digestion – Did you know that digestion starts in the mouth? When food is chewed, surface area is created where enzymes and other digestive components of saliva attach, then the nutrient dissolution process can begin. With fewer gaps and spaces between teeth, the chewing process can be more precise and complete. Also, smaller food particles create a more suitable environment for nutrient absorption.

3. Fresher breath – Crooked teeth can trap food fragments, where these bits of food are broken down by bacteria, leading to unpleasant breath. Aligned teeth make for a more effective brushing and flossing technique to successfully remove this cause of offensive breath.

4. Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction, or TMD, relief – The temporomandibular joint is one of the most exercised joints in the body because it engages every time an individual chews, yawns or speaks. A bite that’s “off” can cause TMD, with symptoms that might include jaw discomfort, headache, clicking of the jaw, earaches and even pain behind the eyes. Straightening teeth, and aligning the jaw through orthodontics can relieve many of these symptoms.

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