Over the last 20 years, we have seen an increase in demand for adult orthodontic treatment. Today, one in four orthodontic patient is an adult according the American Association of Orthodontists, and we treat over 90% adults in our downtown Seattle office. We can attribute this trend to the fact that adult orthodontic treatment is now more accessible, socially acceptable, comfortable, and esthetic than ever before. So let’s review some aspects of adult orthodontic treatment.
Reasons why adults are seeking orthodontic treatment
Adults seek orthodontic treatment for a variety of reasons. Many adult patients come in wanting to straighten some teeth which have moved over time. Others come in at the direction of their general dentist and want to make space for an implant, prepare a site for a crown or bridge, or plan to have veneers made. Many of these problems can often be addressed with clear aligners like Invisalign or lingual braces behind the teeth and are often fast and easy to correct.
Other adults have more complex demands and requirements. Some patients have never had orthodontic treatment as a child and want to straighten their teeth and fix their bite. Other patients have facial concerns, jaw malalignment, pain in their temporomandibular joints (TMJ), worn teeth, severe overbites or underbites, or a lot of crowding. These concerns can also be addressed with clear aligners like Invisalign, lingual braces behind the teeth, or regular braces, but often require a more comprehensive approach.
Orthodontic treatment appliances for adults
Adults have many treatment appliances to choose from. At your initial free consultation, we will make some recommendations on which appliance we think is best suited for your needs. When deciding the type of appliance, our orthodontists take the time to review your biological, psychological, and financial needs. We then make a recommendation that will result in the most efficient, fast, comfortable, and esthetic treatment course. We also make sure that every decision we make is based on the best available scientific evidence.
Orthodontic treatment appliances for adults fall into three different categories:
- Lingual braces behind the teeth
- Clear aligner like Invisalign
- Traditional clear or metal braces
Lingual braces are a fully customized orthodontic appliance system made and prescribed to fit your specific needs, and no one else’s. Lingual braces are similar to traditional metal braces, but instead of sitting on the outside of the teeth for everyone to see, they sit on the back of the teeth.
Lingual braces are the only truly invisible option. They are also very efficient since they use state-of-the-art scanning, 3D printing, and computer software technology to pre-program your tooth movement ahead of time, before you ever start treatment.
Lingual braces are useful in all kinds of circumstances and can equally treat mild and severe orthodontic conditions alike.
Clear aligners (Invisalign)
Clear aligners are commonly referred to as “invisible braces” or Invisalign. These are clear, plastic, molds of your teeth which fit around your teeth. Clear aligners come in a series of trays or aligners and progressively move the teeth a small amount each time the aligners are changed. You will typically move on to the next aligner every 10 days. Clear aligners are also the only type of orthodontic appliance that is removable. They need to be worn 20-22 hours daily to achieve excellent and predictable results.
Clear aligners are best for people with specific orthodontic conditions, like mild crowding, overbite, and open-bite. We often use them for more mild orthodontic problems. If you have mild dental problems on one jaw and severe problem on the other jaw, we will often combine clear aligners with lingual or traditional braces to ensure that your treatment time is minimized and your treatment results are more predictable.
Traditional clear or metal braces?
Braces have come a long way over the years! They are now smaller, subtler, more comfortable and come in a variety of materials (gold, silver, or clear ceramic).
While lingual braces and clear aligners have gained traction in recent years due to their esthetic and subtle properties, braces remain a highly efficient way to correct any kind of orthodontic condition in a short amount of time.
Orthodontic treatment options:
Orthodontic treatment options for adults fall into 2 main categories:
- Non-surgical orthodontics
- Surgical orthodontics
These treatment options rely on moving the teeth to the correct position without changing the overall bone structure. This type of treatment is best for patients who do not have any concerns about their appearance or facial balance. Non-surgical orthodontics for adults involves any combination of lingual braces, clear aligners, or traditional braces and is often carried out in conjunction with other dental providers, such as a general dentist or periodontist (gum-specialist).
Surgical orthodontics is best suited for patients who have concerns related to their appearance or have severe underlying jaw discrepancies. Surgical orthodontics is usually performed once all growth has completed (early 20s for men and late teens for females). Surgical orthodontics is orthodontic treatment combined with jaw surgery to put the jaws in the right place.
If this option is right for you, we will carefully and thoroughly plan your treatment with 3D low-radiation x-ray technology as well as 3D scanned models. We will then work with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon to plan and carry out your treatment plan. If you are a candidate for surgical orthodontics, our #1 priority is to ensure that you are comfortable with your treatment plan and have all of the information you need to proceed with peace of mind.
What to expect from orthodontic treatment as an adult:
Because adult orthodontic treatment is often more complex, we take a highly personalized, thorough, and comprehensive approach to diagnosis, planning, and treatment.
Initial consultation: At your first appointment, we will examine your teeth, gather your concerns, and give you information on the state of your oral and orthodontic health. We will also give you several treatment options to choose from.
Planning phase: If you decide to pursue treatment with our office, we will take a series of thorough records consisting of a 3D scan, photos, and X-ray radiographs. We will also ensure that you have recently visited with your general dentist. This is especially important with adults since adults commonly have other age-related dental needs such as worn teeth or gum disease. We will coordinate with your general dental office to ensure that your orthodontic treatment is done in conjunction with your restorative (tooth filling/crown/implant-related) or periodontal (gum-related treatment) treatments. During the planning phase, we will also plan your tooth movement using cutting edge 3D simulation software to predict and identify any foreseeable benefits and complications.
Getting braces or clear aligners: At this appointment, you will be getting your braces or clear aligners. We will explain what you can expect over the days that follow getting your braces and will give you tips and tricks on getting used to your new appliances!
How to decide whether to get orthodontic treatment as an adult
Overwhelmingly, our adult patients do not regret pursuing orthodontic treatment. An investment in your smile is an investment in your future health, confidence, and overall well-being.
The biggest roadblock patients face when trying to decide whether to pursue orthodontic treatment is finances. Our patients are often pleasantly surprised to find out that we offer a variety of 0% interest, in-house financing payment plan options. We strongly believe that the best payment plan is the one that works for you. We understand that different families and individuals have different financial needs and circumstances. That is why we are committed to accommodate our payment plans to fit your financial situation and ensure you’re comfortable moving forward.
For more information about adult orthodontic treatment options, including the cost of treatment, what you can expect, and how to care for your teeth, braces or clear aligners, contact our office and book a free consultation today.