Braces, or orthodontic treatment, can benefit both children and adults. And recent advances in esthetics have made braces less noticeable than in the past. Brackets, the part of the braces that holds the wires, are bonded to the front of the teeth and can be metal, clear or toothcolored. Sometimes the brackets can be fastened to the back of the teeth. Newest in esthetic orthodontic treatment are “invisible” braces – clear, removable, molded plastic aligners that move your teeth into new positions.
How do I know if I need braces? Your dentist will evaluate your occlusion (bite) and may recommend braces if your bite is not properly aligned (malocclusion). Malocclusion may result from crowded teeth, missing teeth, extra teeth, or jaws that are out of alignment. In children, malocclusions can be hereditary, or can be the result of accidents, thumb sucking, early loss of baby teeth or other forces that impact tooth position and jaw development. For adults, malocclusions often result from missing teeth or shifts that occur over time in the bite. Of course, an adult may have a malocclusion that was never corrected as a child and decide to correct it as an adult!
How are orthodontic problems corrected? The process that moves teeth is the same in everyone, child or adult. Because bones in adults are no longer growing and forming, orthodontic procedures in adults may take a bit longer than in children, but the process is essentially the same for everyone. Once the “active” appliances that move teeth are removed, retainers must be worn so that teeth stay in place and the bone around them becomes stable. However, the mouth is a dynamic environment. With forces applied daily from chewing, swallowing, etc., teeth will naturally move over time and people should be aware that in order to keep teeth in the same place indefinitely and prevent future shifting or relapse, regular use of a retainer may be necessary.
Innovations in orthodontics make them esthetic and effective for children and adults alike.