Have you been looking in the mirror thinking you should have fixed those crowded teeth when you were younger? Have you always been self-conscious about your smile but thought you were too old to get braces now?
Well, you may be surprised (and happy) to know that the attractive smile ship has not sailed without you. In fact, it’s loading lots of over-50 passengers who are lining up to get braces. It’s not only the new “in” thing in senior orthodontics but it’s actually helping save older teeth. Here’s what you should know…
Braces Over 50: Why It’s Still A Good Idea
Maybe your parents couldn’t afford braces when you were younger. Maybe you didn’t want to go around with a mouthful of metal for a year in middle school. For whatever reason you didn’t get braces to straighten out your crooked smile back then – guess what? If your gums are healthy and your teeth are in relatively good repair, your teeth can still be moved into a more pleasing smile.
Even more encouraging, the American Association of Orthodontics says, today, there are actually very few reasons why a person over 50 shouldn’t wear braces. As a result, orthodontists from around the country are reporting an uptick in older patients asking for braces. At the last count done by the AAO, about 20% to 25% of patients are over age 50.
So why are braces in older people becoming the new “in” thing? For one, older people are much more motivated to wear corrective braces than when they were younger. Secondly, at their older age, kids grown, many have more finances to devote to fixing their smile.
And in doing so, they’re also preventing future tooth loss by addressing other dental issues proactively. For example, as you get older, there can be bone loss in the jaws making natural teeth push in and start to crowd together. Overcrowding of teeth can start to change the way you speak or how your words sound. Wearing braces for a while can re-straighten teeth to fit into the new smaller space.
Braces can also fix uneven bite surfaces that cause problems with chewing. Lopsided bites can lead to TMJ – temporomandibular joint – disorder, a painful aching of one, or both jaws, from too tense ligaments around the joint. In addition, braces can set the stage for other restoration work down the road like crowns and bridges resulting from broken or lost teeth.
In years past, when you got older, it was almost expected that you would eventually start losing your teeth. But, today, with better health and dental care, people are living longer in better health. So there’s no real excuse for having bad teeth.
Even insurance underwriters see braces as preventive measures as well. If a person puts in the expense to buy and wear braces, they’re more likely to take better care of their teeth in general. For that reason, more insurance plans are offering increased benefits for braces as well.
What Kind of Braces Are Available?
There’s at least one good thing about waiting so long to have braces put on. The technology that exists today is light years away from the “metal mouths” of your youth. There are many more options instead of the traditional metal wires that are fitted and tightened into each tooth.
Today’s braces have clear, metal or ceramic brackets that are cemented onto each tooth. And the wires that are used in traditional braces, are much lighter and flexible and don’t hurt when you adjust them.
As a result, today’s braces look better, fit better, and don’t have pain associated with tightening them. For this reason, they can be worn much longer than old metal braces. This allows for very successful re-alignment of your teeth.
One of the more popular brands of braces amongst older adults are Invisaligns. These are clear removable brackets that fit over the teeth. They straighten teeth gradually over about 1 year – or longer – depending on the degree of misalignment.
They can cost anywhere from $2,000 for a few sets of aligners and can go up to $8,000 for more extensive treatment. Yet, the average cost of them are under $5,000 – about the same as you would pay for traditional braces.
With Invisaligns, you switch out aligners every 2 weeks – each one getting progressively tighter. Their drawbacks are that they may not be as effective in completely straightening teeth as traditional metal braces. They seem to work best on horizontal straightening issues rather than vertical ones.
So, if you have only a mild horizontal crowding issue, Invisaligns may be a good choice for you. Be aware, though, that they can also get stained by dark drinks – coffee, red wine, tea, cocoa. Yet, the brackets are removable and cleanable.
Traditional braces have also made a comeback. Older people are getting theirs custom-colored to match something they’re involved with – a cause or just for fun. Metal braces are more effective in straightening very crooked teeth faster. So if you have more than a mild overcrowding issue, or a prominent overbite, or more extensive straightening needs, traditional metal braces will likely be best for you.
The good news is, they don’t hurt to tighten like they used to and you likely won’t have to wear them for more than a year. But, keep in mind that the length of brace wearing time will be a little longer than if you were younger. This is because, unlike a younger person, an adults facial bones are no longer growing.
Where Do I Start?
First, you need to make an appointment with an orthodontist and tell them that you’re considering wearing braces. If you’re interest in Invisaligns you’ll need to make an appointment with an Invisalign specialist. You can find the specialists for your area by going on Invisalign’s website.
If you’re interested in traditional metal braces, most orthodontists can do them. You’ll likely have to undergo a set of special Panorex dental x-rays – these are panoramic views of your mouth and teeth – to determine if your mouth structure will allow you to wear braces.
They will go over price, treatment method, estimated length of time it will take to successfully move your teeth into their new straighter position. They can also answer any questions you may have about costs and other particulars of how the process works.
Then after discussing everything with your orthodontist, you make your choice. Keep in mind that there are also other options for fixing cosmetic problems with your teeth – like veneers, caps, bonding, implants – that may work better for your situation than braces.
The majority of people over 50 who have worn braces are very happy with their decision to finally correct their crooked teeth, overbites, underbites, etc. Having a new smile that you’re proud of can significantly boost your self-esteem, confidence and success in social situations.
Many of my patients that have gotten braces said that it was one of the best decisions they’ve made for themselves. They related that, for the first time in their life, they stopped feeling self-conscious about their teeth and their smile. As a result they’re happier and smile much more often.
Mark Bromson, M.D.
Braces Late In Life, http://www.everydayhealth.com/dental-health-specialist/braces-late-in-life.aspx?pos=4&xid=nl_EverydayHealthHealthyAging_20140511
Straight Talk About Braces, http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/straight-talk-about-braces-for-adults?page=2
You’re Never Too Old For Braces, http://www.simplestepsdental.com/SS/ihtSS/r.==/st.32578/t.35024/pr.3.html
Invisalign braces, http://www.invisalign.com/cost?gclid=CJ7qy6idsr4CFRQmMgodM3gAWA