Orthodontics … Move Over, Kids
People of all ages are getting healthier smiles—and happier lives—thanks to orthodontics. A healthy bite produces advantages far beyond the bounds of facial aesthetics.
If one’s teeth are too crowded, spaced too far apart, or otherwise meet in an abnormal way, it makes it harder to bite, chew, and speak. Furthermore, these problems can lead to potential health risks, such as obstructive sleep apnea, later on in life.
It’s Never Too Late for Braces
Although braces have always been thought of as something for kids, adults are increasingly an important part of most orthodontists’ practices. This is because orthodontic treatment can contribute to improvements in adults’ lives, both personally and professionally.
So said respondents in a study conducted on behalf of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), among individuals who, as adults, had orthodontic treatment. Seventy-five percent of adults surveyed reported improvements in career or personal relationships, which they attributed to their improved smile following treatment.
In a survey by the American Orthodontics Association, the number of adult patients who received orthodontic treatment increased 14 percent from 2010 to 2012, climbing to a record high of more than 1.2 million patients ages 18 and older.
“In addition to speaking, the mouth plays an important part in nonverbal communication as well. Thus, smiling can have a significant effect on how others can perceive us in both social and professional settings,” says Serban Nicolaescu, D.M.D., an orthodontist with Smilebuilderz in Lancaster.
“When analyzing a patient’s smile, I often get the following reply … ‘I don’t like to smile.’ Being able to boost the confidence of a ‘non-smiler’ through orthodontic treatment is one of the best parts of my job. Patients of all ages have been able to turn a detractor into an asset by correcting their dental alignment.”
Treatment Options Have Come a Long Way
Today, getting a perfect smile is much friendlier to patients, thanks in part to the increasing number of orthodontic treatments, as well as the technologies and other advances behind these treatments.
Progress has come in several different areas, from the materials used in traditional braces to the technologies utilized to plot out patients’ treatment plans.
Although some parts of orthodontics may be unpleasant, anyone considering orthodontic treatment to correct a crooked smile can take heart in knowing that these improvements, among others, have made the process as painless and comfortable as possible, not to mention quicker than ever before.
There are several types of braces:
These are by far the most common type of brace throughout the world. They are popular with young patients because they get to choose the color ties (rubber bands) at each appointment. Traditional braces are made out of metal and have been around for many decades.
Ceramic Traditional Braces
They work very much like the traditional braces but are made out of ceramic material and are more cosmetic. Their use is almost identical to that of traditional metal braces.
Damon Braces (clear and metal)
They belong to a category of braces titled “self-ligating” because they do not require the color ties. The wires just clip in. They are generally more hygienic, and they do particularly well with crowding. In some situations they allow the treatment to progress faster.
This is a series of removable trays that work much more like retainers than braces and can be removed to eat and brush one’s teeth. They are great from a cosmetic aspect because they are barely noticeable, and they are more hygienic because they allow the patient easy access to all aspects of his/her dentition.
However, compliance is extremely important, and, if not worn adequately, the final result may suffer.
“Ultimately, the teeth do not care what type of appliance moves them,” says Nicolaescu. “If you apply a force to a healthy tooth for a certain period of time, that tooth will move. The rest is all about optimizing the process to achieve specific treatment results and to fit one’s lifestyle.”
The reason traditional braces remain dominant is because they are reliable and do an all-around great job. They are also the most cost effective for the patient. Clear and Damon braces as well as Invisalign are priced higher, although the difference usually doesn’t vary more than roughly10-25 percent, noted Nicolaescu.
Consultation Before Treatment is Important
Each individual is unique, and the decision of how to treat is usually reached between the patient and the doctor.
“I find that patients occasionally come in with preconceived notions about specific systems,” says Nicolaescu. “The appliances that we use are tools and nothing more. It is the human factor that makes the biggest difference. The skill of the doctor and assistants, as well as the patient’s commitment to following our recommendations, will have a much greater impact on treatment than anything else.”
That is not to say that technology hasn’t helped out tremendously. Braces are smaller, the wires come in a variety of alloys that allow for more comfortable and efficient tooth movement, the imaging is all digital, and the radiation exposure is a fraction of what it was a few decades ago.
Adult Orthodontics Can Be More Complex
What sometimes adds complexity to adult treatment is the cumulative effect of previous dental work, periodontal (gum) problems, missing or worn teeth, and even the existence of medical conditions.
Orthodontics may play a vital role in setting up teeth to be properly restored by a patient’s general dentist. An example is establishing the proper space in order to place an implant to replace a missing tooth. Clear braces and Invisalign have created a great opportunity for many adults seeking such improvements without the use of metal braces.
According to Nicolaescu, TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorders) are always tricky, as they can encompass a great range of conditions.
“While orthodontics can, in some cases, improve the function of the TMJ, not every patient stands to benefit from orthodontic treatment, and some cases orthodontic may even be counterproductive,” cautioned Nicolaescu.
“Symptoms of TMJD can sometimes be relieved by therapy, medications, specialized night-guard appliances, and occasionally surgical intervention. Your orthodontist will be able to assess if tooth movement alone will improve the TMJD or if the expertise of another specialist may be needed.”
Nicolaescu’s advice to those who ever wondered about orthodontic treatment is to make sure you feel comfortable with the doctor and that the goals of your treatment are clearly established.
“Don’t get distracted by the all the bells and whistles of a practice,” he concludes. “Remember that those are just tools, and it’s how the clinician uses them that really matters. Get a good sense of what will be expected of you during the treatment and then be willing to commit entirely. Orthodontic treatment is a partnership between the doctor and patient. Both teammates must do their part to get that perfect result.” BW