21 February 2024

It’s never too late to have braces!

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By: Dr. Yasmin Kamarudin, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Saritha Sivarajan

Let’s face it. When we think of braces, we usually imagine an awkward teen with a mouth full of metal and colourful bands to match their shoes. But what about us adults? Can adults wear braces too?

Although it is more common for youngsters to wear braces, more and more adults are now opting to straighten their teeth. This is partly due to adults retaining their teeth longer into older age because of increased dental awareness and access to dental care.

As adults, we sometimes find ourselves at a stage in our lives where we are financially stable, and may experience new found partial freedom from parental responsibilities as ours kids spread their wings and leave the nest. This is the time to shift back the focus onto ourselves because we are worth it too!

You could have missed the boat for braces treatment during your childhood years or have issues of relapse following previous braces treatment. Don’t feel guilty for wanting more for yourself now. In the age of selfies where the camera is held only a few inches away from the face, many adults are keen to improve their smile.

Sometimes, braces are indicated to supplement other dental treatment. For example, alignment of teeth prior to receiving implants or dentures. Such treatment usually requires a multidisciplinary approach as it involves input from various dental disciplines, not just orthodontics.

But is there such a thing as being too old for braces? The short answer is no. You are never too old for braces, although some individuals may not be suitable for braces for other reasons such as poor oral health and specific medical conditions.

The principles of tooth movement, however, are the same for younger individuals and for adults. Force is transmitted from the brace to the tooth right up to its roots. The force then leads to cellular activity around the tooth which eventually causes the tooth to move. It has been argued that tooth movement can be slower and more painful in adults, however, the research on this is equivocal.

Some adults shy away from braces as they are self-conscious and reluctant to be seen wearing braces. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to the conventional metal braces when it comes to moving teeth. Ceramic braces are made from clear or tooth-coloured material, which makes them much less visible than traditional metal braces.

Another alternative are the clear aligners. It is a type of removable brace that is made from a clear coloured plastic material. It looks almost like a retainer but in fact behaves very differently. Retainers are passive and designed to ‘retain’ teeth, whereas clear aligners are active appliances designed to move teeth. With all these aesthetic options available, braces in adulthood can be trendy too!

It is important to understand, however, that braces treatment in adults can be challenging for clinicians. Adults are more likely to have other dental problems such as missing teeth, gum disease, fillings, crowns, or previous history of orthodontic treatment.

But this should not deter adults from seeking treatment, as despite these challenges, adult orthodontic treatment can be very successful if planned correctly from the start with an experienced orthodontist. Adult patients who are motivated to complete their treatment and follow their orthodontist’s instructions can achieve beautiful and healthy smiles.

Remember, it’s never too late to seek the help of braces. Everyone, young and old, deserves a beautiful smile!

Yasmin
Saritha

The authors are Dental Lecturers from the Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya.