The early stages of orthodontic treatment can be a little harder for adult patients than for teenagers.
Teenagers have the benefit of getting treatment while they are still growing and their mouth is more flexible.
In some cases, adults will need to have teeth removed or will require surgery to expand their jaw to make room for moving the teeth. This may not be fun but anaesthetics and painkillers make this a short-term concern compared to the long-term benefits.
When the orthodontist actually puts in your braces, your mouth may be tender for a few days though this should clear up quickly.
Beyond that, the only time you are likely to notice your braces is when you have them tightened.
Some adults say that they feel like their teeth have come loose at the beginning.
The reason is that when you are older your teeth are more firmly anchored into your jaw.
The orthodontist needs to loosen the little filaments that anchor your teeth before the teeth will move.
This can mean your teeth feel loose. However, the feeling is no reason for concern. They will tighten again after the orthodontic treatment.
Beyond that, the basics of orthodontic treatment are the same at any age. Your mouth will feel tender for a few days after you first get the braces and you will experience some discomfort when your braces are tightened.
How does orthodontics work?
The job of an orthodontist is to help fix crooked teeth and jaw problems so that your teeth are in the right place in your mouth.
This may require the orthodontist to take action that helps stretch your jaw or move your teeth so that everything fits properly.
One action they can take is using tools such as braces to push on your teeth so they move into the right place.
If your top jaw is too small, they may install an expander to make it grow wider. Your jaw can be stretched or widened or moved to change its shape.
There are various other steps they can take to move your teeth or expand your jaw so that your teeth all fit comfortably and correctly in your mouth.
At what age should I start orthodontic treatment?
You can get orthodontic treatment at any age from toddlers to old age. The best and least painful time for orthodontic treatment is usually when you are between about 8 to 14.
Between 8 and 9 is usually when the jaw is growing fastest and so is the best time to reshape your mouth.
Permanent teeth usually come in between age 12 or 14 and that is the best time to start full orthodontic treatment.
What happens if I wait until I am older for orthodontic treatment?
You can get braces at any age but as you get older the treatment takes longer and may hurt a bit more. Nevertheless the benefits are still significant.
Here are the answers to five common questions about the implications of having braces.
Does having braces affect the way I talk?
Standard braces don’t normally affect how you talk or the sound of your voice. Sometimes, you may find it difficult for the first couple of days but then you will be able to talk fine.
Are there any activities that I should avoid when I have braces?
You can continue to do most things such as enjoying sports and playing musical instruments. For some sports, you should wear an orthodontic mouth guard. It is also best to avoid activities where you could suffer a lot of blows to your mouth such as boxing or karate.
Does having braces affect what I eat?
You can continue to eat most foods when you wear braces. In the first few days, you would probably be advised to stick to softer foods.
After that, you may need to be careful with hard or sticky foods like caramel and some nuts. You want to make sure the food does not stick on your braces or pull them off your teeth.
In addition, chewing gum is usually not recommended. Some sugar free gums have been reported as causing less problems but talk to your orthodontist if you want to be able to chew gum.
Can the braces come off?
This can happen and it is usually not a major problem. Your orthodontist will attach them again. If it happens a lot, some larger adjustments may be needed.
What happens if a piece comes off and I swallow it?
This is quite rare but it is usually not a major problem. Any parts that you swallow should just pass through your digestive system.
Many teenagers wonder why they need to wear braces.
Is it all about cosmetics or is there something more important?
Back in the days of the cave men, teenagers were only two or three feet tall.
But over the last 10,000 years, people have got bigger. While our mouths have got a little bigger, our teeth got a lot bigger.
As a result, teeth no longer fit correctly into most people’s mouths.
While improving your smile is a great reason for getting braces, there are more important problems that can arise if you don’t deal with crooked teeth.
Digestion Problems: If your teeth are not straight, you will not be able to chew your food correctly and this can lead to stomach problems
Dental Problems: If you don’t deal with crooked teeth early on, your teeth will be hard to clean, and you will face gum problems and greater wear on your teeth.
Breathing problem: As you get older the roof of your mouth can sometimes partially block the air passages in your nose making you snore loudly. The risk of this can be reduced by having braces.
Truth is about 70% of teenagers need braces and therefore having braces will not make you feel different to most of your friends.
One reason orthodontic treatment for adults is different is that, when you are older, it is harder to enlarge your mouth to get all of your teeth to fit.
When you are growing, your jaw is more flexible and the orthodontist can stretch your mouth so everything fits.
However, after you finish growing, your jaw hardens and it becomes difficult for an orthodontist to stretch it.
While you can have your jaw enlarged surgically, most adults opt to have their teeth straightened without this step.
This may mean you need to have some teeth removed to make everything fit. This may not have been necessary if the treatment had been done when you were still growing.
However, there are many benefits in having orthodontic treatment at any age.
In adult life, it can help your digestion and your general health as well as preventing dental problems.
The main difference is that orthodontic treatment when you are older can be a bit slower and even slightly more painful than for younger patients.
While a surprising number of adults benefit from orthodontic treatment, not all adults can take advantage.
It can depend on how well you have looked after your teeth and gums.
For example, gums may have receded so much that orthodontic treatment is not an option or roots may be very shallow if they have not been cared for properly.
Although the state of your mouth may mean that orthodontic treatment is not possible, the benefits of it can apply at any age and it is always worth checking the situation out with an orthodontist.
All orthodontists are trained how to treat adult patients but some specialize in this area.
An experienced orthodontist will know that adult treatment can take longer and may need to be more gentle than treatment earlier in life when someone is still growing.
Orthodontic services can be provided by any licensed dentist trained in orthodontics though most treatment is done by orthodontists.
A dentist must complete 2-3 years of additional training to earn a special qualification in orthodontics.
While many people think orthodontic treatment such as braces is mainly for children, it can help your health at any age.
Crooked teeth are harder to clean and the wear will be uneven. This can lead to inflamed gums and toothache which may even lead to you losing teeth.
Orthodontic treatment can therefore help prevent gum problems and tooth loss.
Another health benefit of having your teeth working effectively is that chewing is an important part of digestion. When you are not able to chew food properly, the rest of the digestive system has to work harder.
An important benefit of orthodontic treatment is therefore that in can help solve and prevent digestion problems.
Orthodontic treatment in adults is similar to teenage treatment although it normally takes a bit longer.
The healing process takes a bit longer as you get older so the orthodontist will need to move your teeth more slowly for example.