Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age, and adults especially appreciate the benefits of a beautiful smile. One of every five patients in orthodontic treatment is over 21. Now more than ever adults are electing to undergo orthodontic treatment. The reasons are many and varied and include:
- Tooth alignment for a straight smile
- Close spaces between teeth
- Correct jaw alignment that can cause headaches, jaw and neck pain
- Correct dental problems caused by a missing tooth
- Adults have special needs during orthodontic treatment, as the rapid facial growth that occurred during childhood and adolescence is completed and therefore, cannot be incorporated into their treatment plan.
Adults generally have a dentition that has been modified due to tooth wear, previous dental or orthodontic treatment, disease and other factors such as trauma, which may include tooth loss or facial bone damage. The health of the soft (gum) tissues that surround the tooth requires careful assessment to make certain future problems do not arise. Time pressures with work and availability for treatment may also be a greater concern. Therefore, there are many additional factors, which modify the treatment options that are available to correct their malocclusion.
Generally adult orthodontic treatment progresses smoothly. Due to a high level of acceptance and motivation, most adults are more cooperative than adolescents, which result in treatment duration of between 12-24 months for many procedures. The use of ceramic braces can further improve the experience, as these appliances are considerably less noticeable than traditional metal braces. For mild crowding problems, Invisalign (invisible clear aligners) may be the perfect solution.
With adult treatment, tooth extraction to relieve moderate to severe crowding or bite discrepancies may be required. When bony expansion or a large correction of the bite is required, surgical assistance may be required from an oral surgeon. When extractions are needed, the pattern chosen often has to be modified to take into account existing fillings or complex dental restorations such as bridges or dental implants.
Another important area of adult orthodontics is 'adjunctive' to other dental procedures. When complex, multidisciplinary treatment is needed, orthodontics can be used to simplify the treatment and significantly improve the outcome, both functionally and esthetically.