By Cathie Ericson
January 31, 2023
As I grow older, it seems like parts of my physique shifts in ways I wouldn’t choose. One of my friends said his teeth had shifted, which led him to get braces from the same orthodontist who treated my kids.
One night at a dinner party, this friend regaled us with tales of sitting alongside other orthodontic patients in the waiting room asking them if they had completed their upcoming science project or how their recent football game went. I laughed alongside other parents, but I also left that party thinking … hmmm … am I too old to give my own teeth a little help?
Read on to answer some questions you might have surrounding orthodontic treatment for adults.
Absolutely not! What’s more, getting braces as an adult is more common than you might think. “Parents often ask me about adult braces as their kids start or finish treatment,” says Dr. Philip D. Bomeli of Solon Orthodontics in Solon, Ohio. Today, people of all ages want a healthy, confident smile.
Thirty years ago, back when today’s parents wore braces as kids, Bomeli’s answer may have been different. Back then, it was common practice for orthodontists to recommend wearing a retainer for a few years after their braces were removed, leading patients to believe that their treatment had an end date.
Is there a braces age limit? Can adults get braces? Bomeli explains how modern research shows that “teeth continue to move throughout your life unless you hold them in place with a permanent retainer.” So, no. Adults are not too old to wear braces. Lots of adults are asking about braces and wearing them.
While teeth straightening for adults is often done for cosmetic reasons alone, others need to move their teeth into more favorable positions so a dentist can successfully do additional work, such as fitting teeth with crowns, implants, or veneers. “Orthodontia can play a key part in making these restorative procedures easier,” Bomeli says.
Now, you have options! Many adults choose clear aligners instead of traditional braces because they don’t significantly alter your appearance. If clear aligners are not an option because of your type of orthodontic issue, Bomeli says there are modern upgrades to traditional metal braces to make them less noticeable. You can get clear braces or ceramic braces, for example. Even today’s metal brackets are much smaller than you might remember from back when you were a teen. Another option for orthodontic patients is a hybrid plan, where you start treatment with traditional braces then finish with clear aligners.
If you’ve already put a pretty penny into your teeth, you might be concerned that orthodontic treatment will disrupt crowns or other oral surgery. But don’t let those concerns stop you from seeking orthodontic care! According to Bomeli, “We definitely see more dental work in adult patients, which might make it more difficult to glue the braces on, but we make it work.”
The one procedure adults have “aged out of” is using an expander to address a small mouth. “In a teen’s skeletal development, the upper jaw is still two pieces of bone that haven’t fused together; whereas an adult would need to see an oral surgeon to move the jaw into the recommended position or to create a split between the two pieces,” Bomeli explains. Other than that, adults can undergo most of the same treatment as teens.
As tempting as it is to turn to a service that promises you a complete treatment plan after one visit, Bomeli cautions against it. “I recommend always having treatment overseen by a professional who can make tweaks as needed. There’s no substitute for regular in-person checkups.” He says his office gives patients only 8 to 10 weeks’ worth of clear aligners at a time because “we want to evaluate and make sure the treatment is progressing effectively, or we might need to change course.” Orthodontists invest in many years of advanced schooling, ongoing certification, and training. Instead of using an at-home orthodontic product advertised on television, it’s best to rely on an orthodontist regularly monitoring your treatment so you can achieve the desired result.