Orthodontics and the Adult Patient

Can adults have braces?

It is no longer true that braces are just for children. Increasing numbers of adults are also seeking orthodontic treatment to improve their smile, fix their bite, or correct other problems cause by injury, disease, or years of neglect. As today's society becomes more focused on their appearance and health, having a good smile (and straighter teeth) goes a long way. A healthy, beautiful smile can improve self-esteem, no matter the age.

Can orthodontic treatment do for me what it does for children?

Healthy teeth can be moved at any age. Many orthodontic problems can be corrected as easily as well as for adults as children. Orthodontic forces move the teeth in the same way for both a 60-year-old adult and a 12-year-old child. However, because an adult's facial bones are no longer growing, some severe malocclusions cannot be corrected with braces alone and some may require a combination therapy of jaw surgery and braces.

I only wanted 2 implants but now my dentist says I need braces as well. Is that necessary?

Your dentist is thinking of your dental health in the long-term and a better result with your two implants. A course of braces before replacement of the implants is not uncommon to get your existing dentition into a better alignment or to create enough space for better-looking implant replacement teeth.

I want to have orthodontic treatment but I feel embarrassed in front of my colleagues and clients. Are there less noticeable braces?

Esthetics is one of the main concerns for adults seeking orthodontic treatment. Braces themselves have become more esthetic over the last 20 years, becoming smaller and less obvious with clear plastic or ceramic braces more commonly used. It is also possible to have the brackets placed behind the teeth (lingual braces). These are virtually invisible, but are more irritable to the tongue. Modern wires are also less noticeable than earlier ones. A type of tooth-colored orthodontic wire is currently in an experimental stage. With the advances in technology, teeth can now be straightened with a series of clear, plastic, removable aligners without metal wires or brackets. Teeth will move - little by little, week by week - by a series of aligners until they have straightened to the final position the orthodontist has prescribed. These sequential plastic aligners (Invisalign®) can align teeth, but they cannot correct significant bite discrepancies.

If I have gum disease, can I have orthodontic treatment?

Gum disease is very prevalent in Hong Kong. Adults are more likely to have experience damage or loss of the gum and supporting bone due to the disease. Special treatment by the periodontist or the family dentist may be necessary before, during and after orthodontic treatment. Bone loss can also limit the amount and direction of tooth movement that is advisable.

Is it true that it hurts more having braces when you are an adult as compared to when you were a child?

There may be slightly more initial discomfort in adult patients but usually this only last for 3-4 days.

Is there any compromise in having orthodontic treatment as an adult as compared to a child?

There are more limitations for adults having comprehensive orthodontic treatment as compared to a child. The facial and skeletal pattern of an adult is largely unchanged and because of slower growth, having orthodontic treatment alone cannot alter them. Correction of large jaw discrepancy in adults may only be done through combined orthodontic and surgical procedures. Procedures (such as functional appliances) used in modifying jaw relationship in a child cannot be used successfully in an adult.

My family dentist said I need to have some missing teeth replaced but I need orthodontic treatment first- Why?

When permanent are lost, it is common for the remaining teeth to drift, tip or shift. This movement can create a poor bite and uneven spacing that cannot be restored properly unless the remaining teeth are properly aligned. Tipped teeth usually need to be straightened so they can stand up to normal biting pressures in the future.