Why get braces?
It used to be rare to see an adult with braces, but there has been a growing interest among adults about correcting their smiles. Currently, about 1 million people older than 18 wear braces.
Some adults choose to get braces to enhance their careers. Regardless of whether it's fair, appearance can matter in certain career fields.
Some adults wanted braces as children but didn't get them for various reasons. Sometimes, it simply comes down to money. On average, adult braces cost between $5,000 and $7,000. Some insurance companies offer plans that cover a portion of the cost, but many companies stop covering braces after a person turns 19. Some orthodontists offer financing options through their offices.
What happens when you get braces?
There are a few options in correcting your teeth, including metal braces, tooth-colored braces, braces that go behind the teeth and clear aligners.
Metal braces are probably the most well-known approach. To install these braces, your orthodontist will glue individual brackets to your teeth. Next, wires will be placed through the brackets. Each time you come in for an adjustment, your orthodontist will adjust these wires to help gradually move your teeth. Your orthodontist might also use small rubber bands to help fix your bite.
Invisalign is another option that works to correct certain types of problems. With Invisalign, you wear a series of clear plastic aligners that gradually adjust your teeth. Invisalign doesn't always correct bites as well as metal brackets. For example, if you only suffer from simple teeth crowding, Invisalign might work for you. But if the corrections needed are more complicated, your orthodontists might not use Invisalign. It will be up to you and your orthodontist to decide which option is best for your.
Porcelain veneers are one of the more expensive options for correction. Veneers are a compilation of several thin ceramic layers that replace original tooth enamel and an adhesive layer. To apply a veneer, a small amount of the original tooth enamel is removed to create room for it to fit in your mouth.
Does it hurt?
For up to two weeks after your braces are first installed, your mouth likely will be sore. Each time after your braces are adjusted, you might be sore, especially if your orthodontist installs a larger wire or makes a bigger adjustment than usual.
If you have veneers installed, you might be sensitive to hot and cold temperatures because of the enamel that was removed. This should clear up within a few days.
What are the risk factors?
Over time, metal brackets have been improved to decrease the likelihood that they will cut your lips or cheeks. Some patients find their gums or lips irritated by new equipment. Wax is sometimes used on brackets or wires to help prevent them from irritating your mouth. In rare cases, people have swallowed loose equipment.
Also, if you don't practice good oral hygiene while wearing braces, you run the risk of tooth discoloration.
One of the long-term risk factors is that your teeth could move back to their original positions. Teeth want to go back to the way they were before your braces. Wearing your retainers regularly after your braces have been removed can help reduce this risk.
What's the recovery time?
Most adults don't want to be in braces any longer than needed, so often they're compliant with what their orthodontists asks of them. Generally speaking, adults are in braces for 1 1/2 years to 2 1/2 years, depending on the type of problem.
Once your braces are removed, your orthodontists might recommend you wear plastic retainers at night, which will help serve as a mold for how your teeth should remain. Another option is for a permanent retainer to be installed in your mouth to ensure teeth stay better in place.
What's the follow-up?
While you have your braces, you regularly will go in for adjustments. If you have metal braces, you will go in every four to 10 weeks. If you have Invisalign, you will get new aligners about every two weeks.
While you have your braces, it's important to listen to the instructions of your dentist and orthodontist, for it can better ensure you get the best results possible.
Dr. Melissa Farrow, of The Brace Place; Dr. J. Michael Steffen, of The Brace Place; Delta Dental; Invisalign; American Association of Orthodontists; Australian Society of Orthodontists; American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.