Am I too old to have braces?
There is no age limit to straightening your teeth. Adult orthodontic treatment is becoming more and more popular. Adult teeth move in exactly the same way as a teenager’s do and most of the information given to teenagers applies to adults. However adult treatment may differ from teenage treatment in some areas and these are explained in the following FAQs.
I’ve had a lot of problems with my teeth, can I still have braces?
Some people are more prone to dental problems than others and have had teeth extracted, had root canal treatment and crowns, bridges or dentures. Part of a qualified orthodontist’s training is in dealing with teeth which have in the past, suffered disease. It is important that the teeth and gums are healthy before starting orthodontic treatment and if necessary, the orthodontist may wish to refer you back to your dentist for treatment, or suggest you visit a periodontist or restorative specialist before starting treatment.
I don’t want metal braces, are there alternatives?
There are less visible braces on the market and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Tooth-coloured ceramic or plastic brackets may be used, eliminating most of the unsightly metal. However these brackets are more p
rone to break and do not move as smoothly on the wire as do metal brackets. Some types of ceramic brackets are so hard that they may cause wear of the opposing teeth and may also damage the enamel of the tooth on removal. For these reasons, these brackets are rarely used on lower teeth. The brackets may discolour with time and are more costly. Having said all this, they are extensively used, particularly for the top front teeth, where the appearance problem is greatest. Tooth coloured wires also exist, however the coating soon strips off and they have been shown to slow treatment down. For this reason we prefer not to use them as we do not consider that the wires available are fit for purpose.
Lingual braces. These are glued to the inside of the teeth and are completely invisible. Lingual appliances are explained more extensively in another section of the FAQ, however the main problems are that they initially affect speech and that they cost more than conventional braces, chiefly due to the high laboratory costs in manufacture.
Aligners are a series of clear plastic splints worn in a specific sequence to nudge teeth into position. They are virtually invisible, however their scope is limited and are best only used to treat mild crowding cases. The cost is high too, due to the laboratory fee.
How long will it take?
The speed at which teeth move depends primarily on how fast the bone around the roots of the teeth responds to pressure. Once you have stopped growing, your bone responds more slowly and the response decreases further with time. So orthodontic treatment for adults in general takes longer than in growing teenagers. However treatment time also depends on what needs to be done. The more complex treatment is, the longer it generally takes. As a general guide, adult treatment takes between 2-2.5 years, but other factors, such as previous dental treatment, i.e. extractions, root treatments, crowns or bridges may complicate matters. The orthodontist will give you an estimate of the expected treatment time.