We’re seeing an increasing number of adults investing in orthodontic treatments. In fact, our recent research shows that over half of Australians feel self-conscious about their teeth, and more than two-thirds are considering treatments to improve their smile.
There are a number of reasons why an adult might have crooked teeth or a bad bite and choose to have orthodontic treatment. Genetics is one of the main causes of common orthodontic problems such as underbites and overbites. Prolonged habits during childhood, such as biting your lips or sucking your thumb can cause the front teeth to become misaligned.
It’s also natural for our teeth to shift position as we age, when we lose or wear down our teeth, or if gum problems develop. Sometimes that means people who have had orthodontic treatment as a child and haven’t worn their retainers as instructed may require further orthodontic treatment as an adult.
Orthodontic treatment is an option for most adults with crooked teeth or uneven bites, just as it is for children and teenagers.
Some of the most common situations where orthodontic treatment might be considered in adults are:
- Crowded, crooked or misplaced teeth
- Protruding teeth (overbites)
- Deep bites
- Jaw and/or facial asymmetry
- Excessive spacing between the teeth
- Realignment of the teeth prior to the placement of veneers, crowns, implants or even dentures
For some adults, the thought of having traditional metal braces is unappealing. Some people are concerned that wearing braces might have unwanted impacts, for example by making them more self-conscious at work or impacting on their social lives.
Thanks to modern technology however, orthodontic treatment is a viable option for almost any adult, with a much wider range of discreet options. The fact that one in five orthodontic patients are adults demonstrates that there are plenty of suitable treatment options which can fit comfortably with your lifestyle.
An experienced specialist orthodontist can determine the most effective treatment available for your individual case.
1. Clear aligners
Clear aligners, such as Invisalign®, Spark® and 3M Clarity, are one of the most popular options for adults looking to undergo orthodontic treatment.
They are transparent pieces of custom-moulded plastic that sit over the teeth and gradually shift them. Often hailed as ‘invisible braces’ because of their subtlety, they are also a removable appliance. While you usually need to wear clear aligners for 20-22 hours a day, you’re able to take them out to eat, drink and clean the aligners.
Clear aligners can be an effective, simple and comfortable form of treatment. However, they’re only suitable for people who are disciplined enough to follow instructions on how to wear and care for their clear aligners.
Just like other forms of treatment, clear aligners should be fitted by a qualified specialist orthodontist, who is fully trained to provide you with the best result.
Braces have changed a lot over the years! Gone are the days where the only option was chunky metal braces. Modern tooth coloured or clear ceramic braces are a lot subtler, and advances in orthodontic technology mean that the adult braces are now significantly smaller and more comfortable than they were in the past.
While newer technologies such as clear aligners have given patients more choice about the type of treatment they undergo, braces remain one of the best ways to achieve dramatic results over a short amount of time.
3. Lingual braces
Lingual braces function like traditional braces, but they are bonded to the back of your teeth instead of to the front. They are the only truly invisible option when it comes to orthodontic treatment – because they sit behind your teeth no one will be able to see them!
Lingual braces are usually more expensive and can take longer to fit and adjust than regular braces, but they can be an incredibly effective option. If you’re looking for a discreet treatment option that will help you achieve a perfect smile, then lingual braces are worth considering.
In addition to enhancing the appearance of your smile, there are plenty of other reasons to undergo orthodontic treatment.
Patients often report psychological benefits when undergoing orthodontic treatment, often reporting a boost in their self-confidence.
In addition to psychological benefits, having straight teeth can make them function better and easier to clean, possibly reducing the chances of tooth decay and gum problems.
In conjunction with other medical and dental specialists, an orthodontist can also help in the diagnosis and management of obstructive sleep apnoea, and jaw joint problems.
The best option is to consult your orthodontist, who will be able to assess your situation and discuss what treatment will be most appropriate for you.
Prior to getting your braces you will need to have a consultation with your orthodontist. The orthodontist will assess your teeth, check your bite, obtain photos and x-rays, then recommend what treatment options are available and which treatment option will be the best for you. Sometimes if the case is complex, the orthodontist may want to refer you to another dental specialist so they can work together to give you the best result.
Once you have decided on a course of action, the orthodontist may want to take an impression or scan of your teeth so that any required custom orthodontic appliances can be made.
At your next appointment you will be fitted with the orthodontic appliances of your choice and will be provided with proper care instructions. Initially you may experience some minor pain, discomfort and difficulty with speech as you adjust to the sensation of having appliances on your teeth. However usually after two weeks the discomfort and speech difficulty will subside.
There are a number of foods you should avoid while undergoing orthodontic treatment to ensure the health of your teeth and to avoid any unwanted breakages to your appliances. Be sure to ask your orthodontist what you can and cannot eat beforehand.
Thanks to recent advancements in orthodontic treatment options, having braces as an adult is safer and more comfortable than ever. Like any medical procedure, physical intervention with any parts of your body, including your teeth, will carry some risks. However, these risks can be minimised if the orthodontic treatment is performed under the supervision of a specialist orthodontist.
Potential risks include toothaches and mild discomfort, scratches and ulcers on cheek and tongue, gum infection, gum recession, enamel demineralisation, jaw joint discomfort, dental nerve damage, and root shortening. Whilst these complications can occur during or after orthodontic treatment, they are generally quite rare, especially if the treatment is properly planned and managed by a registered specialist orthodontist. Some complications such as oral irritation can also be mitigated by using clear aligners instead of braces.
While your teeth tend to move naturally over time, serious changes and misalignments may require a second round of braces treatment. This may be due to not wearing your retainer after your initial treatment, developing gum problems, loss of teeth, trauma to teeth or face, or even habits such as grinding your teeth or chewing on pens.
Whether you choose to have orthodontic treatment again to correct your smile will likely depend on the amount of movement that has taken place and whether this is affecting your smile, your jaw movements or your bite. If you do require further treatment as an adult it is highly likely your orthodontist will be able to offer an invisible treatment option such as clear aligners.
Overall, orthodontic treatment is an overwhelmingly positive investment in your future health and happiness. A confident smile has the potential to be your best and most memorable asset.
When it comes to treatment options and payment plans, your orthodontist will happily talk you through your options, answer any questions and do all they can to ensure you’re comfortable moving forward.
If you’re unsure of where to find a registered specialist orthodontist near you, check out the Find An Orthodontist tool.
For more information about adult orthodontic treatment options, including the cost of treatment, what you can expect from your orthodontic consultations and how to care for your braces or clear aligners, take a look at our Adult and Orthodontics eBook