Are we too old for braces?

Are we too old for braces?

Have you ever wondered if you are too old to have braces? An increasing number of adults are getting orthodontic devices fitted. In fact, it has been estimated that up to 20 per cent of patients having braces are adults. There is no upper age limit too. Many of these adults wished they had done it earlier but agreed that it’s never too late to have braces. Certainly, this trend is part of a larger one: cosmetic treatments have much greater currency these days.

Great leaps forward in orthodontic technology also have a lot to do with it. Compared with their predecessors, modern braces are more efficient, less painful to put on and take off, and far less visible. Devices such as ceramic braces coloured to match the wearer’s teeth, ultra-thin titanium wires and clear, removable aligners mean people often don’t notice when someone they knows starts wearing an orthodontic appliance.

There are valid health reasons – both preventive and restorative – to get braces. People with crowded teeth, bad bites, gaps between their teeth, or teeth all bunched up together may have trouble properly cleaning them which can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. A bad bite can also lead to chronic pain in the jaw joints.
Most people, however, get braces for cosmetic reasons. One poll conducted in late 2001 revealed that 82 per cent of Australians think that having straight teeth and a nice smile are important for a person’s self-esteem, while 81 per cent believe that these make a person more attractive. It’s this pursuit of physical perfection that is putting so many adults in orthodontists’ chairs.

Even those with mild malocclusions are getting treatment. In a recent interview in Elle magazine, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen explained why she got orthodontic treatment: “One of my teeth was moving. A photographer was using a side light, which created a shadow across my mouth. I saw a Polaroid and it looked like I had no tooth. So I went to the dentist and got Invisalign.”

Types of braces

Ugly Betty’s writers, striving for effect, have put Betty in metal braces, the kind most of us are familiar with. Ceramic braces come in either a transparent variety or can be coloured to match your teeth. The obvious advantage of this is that it gives those people who wouldn’t be caught dead in metal braces the courage to do something about their malocclusions. One disadvantage of ceramic braces is that food and drink leave unsightly stains on the clear plastic modules that hold the wire to the brackets, which means you need to visit the orthodontist every three weeks to have them replaced. With metal braces, you only need go every six weeks. Lingual braces are another option. Rather than getting the brackets attached to the front side of your teeth, you have them fixed on the inside. The advantage of this is that they can hardly be seen. The disadvantage is that, more than regular braces, they can interfere with your speech and are hard to clean.

Beyond Braces

Removable aligners, such as those manufactured by Invisalign and Clearsmile, are an increasingly popular alternative. These clear, plastic aligners are not attached to your teeth. There are no metal wires. You wear them for up to 22 hours a day, taking them out only to eat. The aligners are proving are providing very popular with young adults in particular. One problem with aligners – compared to fixed braces – is compliance: the devices only work if you wear them as recommended. Teenagers and younger children are less likely to comply, which is one of the reasons why orthodontists still recommend fixed devices, even if the teens have a mature dentition. Finally, aligners may not be the appropriate treatment for certain conditions, including severe malocclusions.

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