At what age do you become too old for braces? Is it at 20? 30? How about 60 years old? For many cultures, braces are a symbol of “going through puberty”. So you might think that they are just for kids. But the truth is, you are NEVER too old to get braces.
Braces are one of the most popular tools for straightening teeth and fixing malocclusions, also known as bad bites. Though Invisalign (clear aligners) has gained recent popularity for their aesthetic appearance, they still have their limitations. Whereas braces tend to work faster, and generally they are a better option for complex orthodontic malocclusions. Examples of complex problems are:
- Overjet: teeth that stick out too far
- Overbite: teeth that overlap too much
- Diastema: front teeth that don’t close together
- Open Bite: front teeth don’t touch during biting
- Crossbites: caused by narrow jaws, or incorrect eruption route of adult teeth
- Crowding: lack of space causing crooked teeth
So Are You Too Old to Get Braces?
Firstly, the position and orientation of your teeth is constantly changing throughout life. So someone who didn’t need braces in their adolescents may need them in adulthood – this is perfectly normal. Alternatively, people’s aesthetic goals may change with time. For example, you get a promotion in your 40s which involves more social interactions, thus, you may decide to get braces.
However, the underlying cause of the bad bite or the crooked teeth must be addressed to prevent unfavourable results or relapse. These underlying causes are best managed by an orthodontist or dentist, not DIY clear aligners found online. But the important thing to remember is, braces are a tool that do not have an age limit. If planned and executed well, then adults can also have successful results with braces. Lastly, the benefits of braces are beneficial at any age: braces can improve esthetics, self-confidence and oral hygiene. But there’s one benefit that’s often overlooked, and that is speech improvement. Your teeth play a huge role in how you speak and articulate words and I want to touch on this subject before the end of the article.
Children are known for getting braces largely due to the fact that correcting jaw discrepancies is much easier in children and teenagers during peak growth. Often, the jaws are misaligned leading to many malocclusions and “bad bites”. In children, changing the shape and size of the jaw during peak growth with braces and other appliances is very effective. However, changing the size and shape of the jaw in adulthood usually requires surgery which is known as orthognathic surgery. But, orthodontists are trained to treatment plan based on patient comfort, therefore, if surgery isn’t your cup of tea, there will always be other options.
Other objectives of treatment by an orthodontist may include reversing the effects of a habit. Children are known for their thumb-sucking and pacifier sucking habits, which can have a negative effect on the teeth and jaws. However, adults also have bad habits which can impact their teeth & jaws, these include lip, nail and pen biting.
Some adults may have an open bite from childhood due to their thumb-sucking habits. This habit often causes the top teeth to stick out & prevents the top and bottom teeth from touching while eating, this is called an open bite. This habit may cause the shape of the upper jaw, and if this problem isn’t managed in childhood, then it certainly needs ot be managed in adulthood during the braces phase, or your treatment results will be unfavourbale.
Braces for Adults
What about adults who have completed their growth? Many adults who seek orthodontic treatment have either never had braces or had them but then their teeth relapsed after treatment.
Many adults tend to favour clear aligners such as Invisalign and clear braces due to their aesthetics. But the important thing to remember is, no matter what your age is, teeth can be moved. The difference in treating adults compared to children/adolescents is the inability to change the growth of the jaws in an adult. If treatment does require changing the position of the jaws to achieve the best orthodontic and esthetic result, surgery is often the only method. Another challenge encountered when treating adults is moving teeth in the presence of gum disease. Teeth move slower with gum disease, and there is a higher chance of faster and more bone loss. Orthodontic treatment is often not suitable for patients with gum disease as the state of the teeth, gums and bone can worsen. Patients with gum disease or at risk of developing it, require special management with their general dentist prior to getting braces. Once controlled, treatment with braces or clear aligners can take place.
Braces have many benefits but one incredible improvement is often in speech. Sounds made when speaking involve a combination of movement from the lips and tongue which contact the teeth. Improving the position and orientation of teeth with braces can drastically improve articulation of words and sounds. Many businessmen, leaders and public speakers benefit greatly from this type of intervention.
To summarize, braces are an extraordinary tool that can help you transform your smile. Adults and kids are both eligible for braces. However, there are important factors that need to be considered by orthodontists before creating a treatment plan. These factors include: evaluating the jaw positions, habits, tooth positioning and treatment preferences such as Invisalign, braces, or surgeries. With the right plan and an experienced dental clinician, successful orthodontic outcomes are achievable for adults.
Want to know the difference between braces and clear aligners (ie. Invisalign), if so, click here and learn more.
Have you thought about braces for your kids? If so, click here to read the best age for your child to see an orthodontist.
Written by: Dr. Stephanie Colaiacovo (Orthodontist)