Can adults have braces?

Certainly: Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age!

About a quarter of the patients treated by Dr Sarah Good and Dr Pourghadiri are adults. The biological processes involved in tooth movement are the same in both adults and children. The health of the teeth, gums, and supporting bone is very important to the success of orthodontic treatment in adults as well as children.

Modern techniques have made orthodontic treatment more comfortable and shorter in duration; and less visible or invisible braces have made the wearing of braces much more acceptable for adults.

Why do adults seek orthodontic treatment?

Most adults who seek orthodontic treatment do so because they feel their smile is the most important feature of their facial appearance, and they wish to improve their smile to feel happier about their looks and enhance their self-esteem.

Others do so to improve their bite, chewing, or to make it easier to maintain good oral hygiene. Some adults have orthodontic treatment as part of an overall comprehensive dental treatment plan in conjunction with other specialist treatment to improve dental function and aesthetics.

These patients may be having gum therapy, crowns, veneers, bridges or implants; and in their case, braces could often help achieve a much superior outcome.

Many people never had braces when they were very young. This is because either their parents or dentists were oblivious to their orthodontic problems, or they were not aware of the power of orthodontics to correct bite problems, or the provision of orthodontic treatment was limited where they lived, or their teeth could not be straightened with the techniques of many years ago. Now they have problems with their teeth and gums, or they are just unhappy with their smile and the irregularity of their teeth.

Some of our adult patients did have braces elsewhere when they were young, but their teeth became irregular again because of circumstances surrounding their treatment, or more usually through lack of retainer wear. For many of these patients, the irregularity of their teeth is relatively mild, and a comparatively short course of treatment can often return their teeth to perfect alignment, giving them a much more confident smile.

What are the limitations of adult orthodontics?

Because an adult person’s bones are no longer growing, certain extreme corrections involving the facial bones cannot be accomplished with braces alone. Occasionally, adult orthodontic treatment may have to be combined with the efforts of an oral & maxillofacial surgeon to achieve the optimal result.

Other than lack of jaw growth, there are other factors that sometimes complicate adult orthodontic treatment. These may be clinical aspects such as existing gum problems, loss of or damage to teeth, numerous fillings, crowns and bridges. There are also social aspects to consider like a busy career or family matters.

How is adult orthodontics different to teenage orthodontics?

Tooth movement can sometimes be slower in adults, so treatment in some cases can take a little longer. This is especially true if there are spaces to close. The teeth and their surrounding tissues also take longer to adapt to the new tooth positions. Some adults also take a little longer to get used to the initial discomfort associated with braces.

Having said that, adults tend to be more motivated than teenagers when it comes to orthodontic treatment, and through their better compliance with professional advice, they often experience fewer problems during the course of treatment. This helps the orthodontist attain the objectives of treatment, and complete it in a shorter period of time.

But don’t braces look awful?

No, they don’t have to. First of all, conventional braces have become much smaller and less noticeable than they used to. You also tend to see more adults these days wearing braces, and it has now become quite acceptable and usual to see adults showing off their braces. Most people also respect those who are taking the time and trouble of having orthodontic treatment to improve their appearance and dental function.

At our practice we regularly use aesthetic, tooth-coloured or invisible braces to help you feel more confident about wearing an orthodontic appliance. Our aim is to help you achieve a great smile that you can always be proud of, but do so in the most pleasant way possible.

Are there any age limits to adult orthodontics?

In general, as long as your gums and jaw bone are healthy, there are no age limits to having braces. However, there are other complicating factors such as the ones mentioned above that may limit or preclude orthodontic treatment. Your orthodontist will be able to advise you about this.