Brace Yourself

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MORE AND MORE ADULTS ARE OPTING FOR ORTHODONTIA

By now, it’s hardly radical to point out that braces aren’t just for preteens anymore. Adult orthodontia was already on the rise in the early 2000s when celebrities like Tom Cruise and Faith Hill showed up on the red carpet rocking a set of straighteners, and interest in it increased from there.

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, one in four orthodontic patients is an adult, with ages ranging anywhere from early 20s into the 80s.

“When we speak to many of our adult patients about their experience with orthodontics, their only regret is not starting treatment sooner,” said Morris N. Poole, DDS, president of the AAO.

Helping guide this decision is the wealth of options that adults can now choose from, allowing them to straighten their smile without flashing a mouthful of metal along the way. In addition to “clear braces,” which use ceramic brackets that blend into your teeth, there are offerings from Invisalign or SureSmile that use clear molds that slip over the teeth. These molds are swapped out every few weeks, gently moving teeth into place.

Shifting teeth can generally take between six and 30 months, but a few advancements have helped accelerate teeth’s movement — vibration technologies to stimulate blood flow, LED treatments to activate cells and even microperforation, in which tiny holes are drilled into the bone to create space for teeth. Costs can vary based on options, from $3,000-$10,000.

The options are as varied as the reasons why adults have chosen to undergo orthodontia. At 31 years old, Bluffton's Brandy Bartlett made the leap after suffering from severe dental anxiety most of her life.

“Instead of baby steps back in the dentist chair, I decided to go all in without thinking twice,” she said. “It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I woke up one day, and my desire for a healthy smile was stronger than my fear. My experience has been great so far with, the exception of not being able to easily eat some of the foods I love.”

In a little over two years, Bartlett says the change in her smile has been amazing. Her new smile not only gave her confidence, but also showed her she had little to fear from the dentist. And while confidence in a new smile is a big factor for adults, there are several other underlying issues that can be treated through braces. Overlapping or crooked teeth can wreak havoc, misaligning your bite and causing everything from TMJ to chronic headaches.

“I never had braces as a kid even though I needed them. I decided to get my teeth fixed as an adult because they were so crooked, I was getting headaches most days,” said Bluffton resident Sarah Hurst.

When we speak to many of our adult patients about their experience with orthodontics, their only regret is not starting treatment sooner.

– MORRIS N. POOLE, DDS PRESIDENT OF THE AAO

Hurst began her treatment through Invisalign, trading out the plastic mold every few weeks until her teeth were ready for traditional braces that could complete the job.

“It's honestly been one of the best things I've ever done for myself. No more headaches," Hurst said.

Whether it's to alleviate pain from crooked teeth, gain confidence in their smile or just to look ravishing on the red carpet, adults are discovering how braces aren’t just for teens anymore.