Think you're too old for orthodontics?Think Again!
Orthodontic treatment is no longer just for children and teenagers. Recent trends have shown a tremendous increase in adult orthodontic patients. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists states that one in four patients is over the age of 21. Thinking about orthodontic treatment as an adult? Let’s explore things a little bit deeper.
WHY DO ADULTS CONSIDER ORTHODONTIC TREATMENT
Adult patients seek treatment for a variety of reasons. Most of my adult patients are self-referred because they don’t like something with their smile. Other times they are referred by their dentist because they have teeth that are hard to clean, a bite that is causing tooth wear, or require teeth moved in conjunction with another type of dental procedure (such as dental implants). While many younger patients seek treatment primarily for cosmetic or social reasons, adult patients often seek treatment to improve function, maintain optimal oral health, and increase the longevity of their teeth. Whatever the reason for considering orthodontics, it’s never too late to love your smile.
Is Orthodontic Treatment the Same for Adults and Younger Patients?
Adult patients share a majority of the same treatment objectives as younger patients do—specifically, correcting crowded and spacing, improving an “overbite”, or fixing crossbites. Because the tissues involved in tooth movement are the same in both adults and children, the majority of orthodontic problems in adults can be improved with treatment. However, a major difference exists between these patient groups–the degree and magnitude of facial and jaw growth. Adult patients are no longer growing, which does limit how much some orthodontic conditions can be corrected. Growth is beneficial in correcting many orthodontic conditions, specifically reducing overbites, expanding the jaws to relieve crowding, and improving deep bites. Because adults are not growing, extractions and surgery are more common if full orthodontic correction is to be achieved. Since some adults don’t want to have teeth removed or jaw surgery, many are willing to accept a degree of compromise not often necessary in younger patients. Adults also have denser bone tissue and a slower metabolism than children, resulting in slower tooth movement and longer treatment times. Lastly, adults often present with a more extensive dental history (worn, missing, and/or compromised teeth), all of which can limit treatment options.
While treatment objectives and options may be more limited in adult patients, I have found that my adult patients are some of the most educated, motivated, compliant, and appreciative patients in my practice. Since they are pursuing treatment themselves (unlike teenagers who are often compelled by their parents), adult patients usually have better oral hygiene and are more involved with their treatment decisions, all of which result in excellent patient compliance. Because of this, they are normally excellent candidates for cosmetic treatment options such as Invisalign clear aligners.
Think you’re too old for orthodontics? I often hear from adults who fear their window for a better smile has passed, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Today’s orthodontic treatment options are more “adult-friendly” than ever before, with comfortable, esthetic, and customized options available to meet the needs of adult patients and their busy lifestyles. While your treatment may be more complicated and take longer, improved appearance, better function, and improved confidence are achievable at any age!