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What You Need to Know About Getting Adult Braces

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Have you ever looked longingly at photos of celebrities and thought, “I’d love to have a smile as bright as that?” As an adult, you may think that the time has passed to get braces, but that’s not true. More and more adults are open to having braces to correct their teeth. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, about one patient in five is an adult. Even patients in their later years are seeking orthodontic treatment. As long as your teeth are healthy, they can be straightened. Having braces as an adult can even be advantageous. In an interview with Time, Dr. Morris Poole, president of the AAO, notes that adults tend to be more careful when they get braces. He says, “They are making the investment, and they want to make sure they are getting their money’s worth.” If you’re thinking about adult braces as a way to achieve the smile you’ve always wanted, here’s what you need to know.

Ask Yourself: Do You Really Need Adult Braces?

If you’re considering adult braces, the first question to ask yourself is whether you actually need them. You could be a candidate for adult braces if:

  • Your teeth are misaligned.
  • You have an underbite (upper front teeth are behind the lower front teeth) or overbite (the opposite of an underbite).
  • Your teeth are crowded.
  • You have a crossbite (upper tooth is behind the lower opposing tooth).

It’s best to speak with your dentist: Tell him or her about your concerns, and ask whether braces would help you. If so, your dentist can then refer you to an orthodontist. The common perception is that braces are meant to straighten your teeth, but that’s not all they do. That’s why getting that initial dentist consultation is important. Braces are not just cosmetic, either. Yes, the end result is a gorgeous smile, but having your bite and the alignment of your teeth corrected can improve your overall dental health. Straight teeth without gaps or overlaps provide less opportunity for the buildup of plaque and tartar. Take blogger Krystal Yee, who opted for braces for this very reason — “not only to straighten my teeth, but to prevent problems in the future.” Or, there’s Jess Horwitz, who tells Yes and Yes that she needed braces as an adult to correct her open bite. She had braces once as a teenager, but her teeth shifted over time, and so as an adult she required additional treatment.

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What to Expect at a Consultation With an Orthodontist

During a consultation, your orthodontist will examine your teeth and gums and assess your suitability for braces. Be prepared to answer a host of questions on your dental habits and to sit through a thorough examination of your teeth and gums. Once the examination is complete, the orthodontist will share with you a diagnosis and recommended treatment plan. Having braces is a commitment in terms of time, effort and finances, so you should select an orthodontist whom you feel comfortable and confident with. Kaylah at The Dainty Squid shares how she consulted with two orthodontists before making a decision on who suited her best. For most patients, their top concern when it comes to getting braces is how long they have to wear them. The truth is, this varies from person to person. Typically, most adults can achieve good results from wearing braces for 12 to 18 months. Another concern is the cost. Once again, this varies and depends on the complexity of your case. The cost is largely tied to the length of your treatment; the longer you need to wear braces, the more expensive treatment will be. Your orthodontist can provide a more accurate estimate of how much braces would cost for you. Most orthodontists have payment plans available.

Understanding Your Options

Depending on your individual case and the assessment of your orthodontist, you can choose from several types of treatments to achieve your dream smile. Traditional braces are available in metal or ceramic. They consist of brackets fixed to your teeth, with wires threaded through the slots in the brackets. Ligatures, which resemble small rubber bands, hold the wires and brackets together. The wires work to create a gentle, constant force that moves your teeth into the correct alignment. The difference between metal and ceramic braces is the color. Ceramic braces are clear or off-white, and thus are less conspicuous than metal braces. There are also traditional braces that are self-ligating, meaning that the brace system has a slide mechanism that replaces the use of elastics. Lingual braces, also known as hidden braces, consists of wire is applied to the back of your teeth. Aside from traditional braces, another treatment option is clear aligners that are custom-designed to fit your teeth. Commonly known as Invisalign, these are thin, transparent trays that are worn in order to move and realign your teeth. They are only removed during meals, and brushing and flossing. Typically, one aligner is worn for two to three weeks, and a series of them must be worn during the entire treatment period in order to achieve the best result. While most patients are drawn to the idea of “invisible braces,” Invisalign is not suitable for everyone. Your orthodontist can advise you on the best course of action so that you can get the results you want. Take Yee’s case as an example. While Invisalign was suitable for her, her orthodontist recommended traditional braces as a more effective, faster and cheaper option. In the end, Yee went with ceramic braces on top and metal braces on the bottom.

What To Expect During the Fitting Process

The entire process of getting your braces fitted depends on your individual case. Some patients may need to additional corrective action before their braces can be fitted. To have a better idea of what the process is like, check out blogger Natalie Collinson’s account of getting the Damon Clear brace system. According to her, it took under an hour for the braces to be fitted to her upper teeth, and she returned a second time for the fitting to her bottom teeth. If you have any questions on the fitting process, be sure to ask your orthodontist. He or she will be happy to address your concerns before the fitting itself so that you’re comfortable and knowledgeable about what will happen.

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Life With Braces

Wearing braces is a commitment and should not be taken lightly. Stacy Myers at Humorous Homemaking is glad that she decided to have braces as an adult. As an adolescent, she says, she feels she might not have taken the best care of her braces. Having braces means making some short-term lifestyle adjustments. Jessica McCoy at All She Cooks says she learned how important it is to be vigilant about brushing and flossing to remove any trapped food debris. She also had to be more mindful about her food choices, particularly in public, so that she wouldn’t be anxious about whether food would get stuck on her braces. Yan Jie at The Pantry has a list of foods you should avoid while wearing braces, as they can damage your braces, hurt your teeth, or increase your risk for cavities and tooth decay. You may also want to keep a toothbrush with you at all times, Catie Prendergast suggests at Thought Catalog. She recommends brushing your teeth after every meal to ensure there are no bits of food stuck in your braces. The braces themselves require some getting used to. Nichola Ludlam-Raine at Nic’s Nutrition found the first two weeks the hardest. Her teeth hurt, her speech was slightly impaired and she had difficulty eating. In her experience, things got much better after two weeks, when she got used to having the braces on. She reported some additional discomfort, though, when she had to get her braces tightened every six to eight weeks. Lindsey Paris, who blogs at Redhead Baby Mama, also had a tough time with her braces initially. The metal braces abraded the inside of her mouth, and she had to use the wax pack provided by her orthodontist to reduce friction and pain. If you think you’ll feel self-conscious while wearing braces, Katie Burnetts at The Guardian reports that people didn’t seem to pay any heed to her braces (she opted for ceramic). If you experience excessive pain or have trouble adjusting to life with braces, speak to your orthodontist. He or she will be a valuable resource and can offer you advice to help you adjust.

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Life After Braces

The day that your braces come off is certainly a day to celebrate. Finally, you have the healthy bright smile you’ve been dreaming of! Having braces as an adult can change your life. Steffanie Entralgo at Brighter Darling found that braces corrected her bite, and this helped her speak more clearly. Naomi Garnice at The Muse writes about how having braces and transforming her smile helped to make her more confident in the workplace. She smiled more, came across as more friendly and approachable. Ultimately, she credits her newfound confidence for helping her land her dream job! Finally, be sure to follow your orthodontist’s advice and consistently wear your retainer to ensure that your teeth stay in their new position. If you’re interested in whitening your newly aligned teeth, it’s best to wait at least a month, as your teeth and gums may be sensitive from the braces. Images by: Yingpis Kalayom, oswaldoruiz, StockSnap, Lesly B. Juarez

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