Can adults wear braces?

Adults wear braces tooBraces aren't just for teenagers – it’s never too late to improve your dental health and beautify your smile. About 1 million Americans over the age of 18 wear braces. Your general dentist can help you determine if orthodontic treatment is the right option for you. Your general dentists may even be able to treat your orthodontic problems. You can also request an evaluation and receive treatment from an orthodontist, a specialist in diagnosing, preventing and treating improper alignment of the teeth.

Why would adults need braces?

Some adults never received orthodontic treatment as children to correct problems such as crooked or crowded teeth, overbites and underbites, incorrect jaw position or jaw joint disorders. Left untreated, these problems may result in tooth decay, gum disease, headaches and earaches, as well as speaking, biting or chewing problems.

Is orthodontic treatment different for adults?

Braces can provide adults the same benefits children receive. However, treatment may take longer than it does for children. The average adult wears braces for 18 months to three years. As with children, adults may need to wear a retainer to maintain the results of treatment after braces are removed.

How much do braces cost?

The cost of braces depends on the type you select. On average, metal braces cost $5,000 to $6,000. Keep in mind that your out-of-pocket costs will likely be higher if you choose non-metal braces. Check your Evidence of Coverage, Summary Plan Description or Group Dental Service Contract to see if your dental plan covers orthodontic treatment for adults. You should also ask your dentist to submit a pre-treatment estimate (also called a predetermination) to your dental plan so you can find out in advance what your out-of-pocket costs will be.

How can I find out if I need braces?

Consult with your dentist and ask for an evaluation. Depending on the complexity of your case and whether or not your dentist performs orthodontic work, he or she may choose to treat you or refer you to an orthodontist – a dentist who specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities.

The initial consultation provides an opportunity to ask questions about orthodontic treatment:

  • What are the costs involved?
  • How will the braces correct my problem?
  • How long will I need to wear braces?
  • What is the dentist's experience with my particular problem?
  • Will I be able to schedule appointments at convenient times?

What types of braces are available?

Braces are custom-made appliances that use applied pressure to straighten your teeth and correct your bite. While some practitioners still favor metal braces as the most reliable, new materials and other technological advances have made smaller, less noticeable braces available. Instead of metal, you may be able to wear clear or tooth-colored ceramic braces or removable invisible aligners.

Types of braces1
Metal braces, made of high-grade stainless steel and attached to the front of teeth, are the most common.
Clear ceramic braces are worn on the front of the teeth just like traditional steel braces. Unlike metal braces, they blend with the color of the teeth for a much less noticeable appearance. They may look better, but they may break more easily than metal braces.
Lingual (or concealed) braces have brackets that attach to the back of teeth, so they are hidden from view.
"Invisible" braces are a series of clear, customized, removable appliances called aligners. Not only are these braces less visible, but they also are removable so they won't trap food and plaque between your teeth like metal braces. Each aligner is worn for about two weeks and only removed for eating, brushing and flossing. This may be an option for individuals with mild spacing problems.

How do I adjust to life with braces?

You probably will experience some discomfort or difficulty speaking or eating when you first receive your braces. While wearing braces, keep your teeth and brackets clean. If you wear cemented, non-removable braces, food and plaque can get trapped between the teeth and gums. To reduce your risk of cavities, follow a regimen of brushing, flossing and rinsing, and reduce your consumption of sweets and carbohydrates. Good oral hygiene may also prevent decalcification (white spots) on teeth and tooth decay.

Which foods should I avoid?

It's a good idea to skip foods that can damage or dislodge braces. Avoid hard foods such as candy, raw carrots, corn on the cob, pretzels, nuts, popcorn and crushed ice. Other foods to avoid include sticky foods such as caramel, taffy and gum. These foods can get stuck between teeth and gums or bend wires and knock bands or brackets loose. If this results in damage to braces, treatment may be extended.

Do I need to see my general dentist during orthodontic treatment?

Remember that going to the orthodontist is not a substitute for regular dental checkups. You should consult your general dentist for a schedule of checkups and cleanings that's appropriate for you.

  • 1 Note: All types of braces may not be covered in your dental plan. If you choose a cosmetic alternative to the covered orthodontic appliances, you may receive an allowance towards the cost of the treatment, but you will be responsible for paying the difference. You should ask your dentist to submit a pre-treatment estimate (also called a predetermination) to your dental plan so you can find out in advance what appliances are covered and what your out-of-pocket costs will be.
Source: Can adults wear braces? Academy of General Dentistry.
Last updated: October 2007

The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

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