Good oral health is important for any person. From the first tooth eruption to a full mouth of adult teeth, they need to be healthy. Orthodontic treatments are often associated with teenagers, but not everyone gets the treatment they need when they are young. Today, more than a million and a half people over the age of 18 get orthodontic treatment. The reasons adults seek better orthodontic health range from cosmetic to essential for good overall health. Since it may be inconvenient and embarrassing to have a mouth full of metal, they look for an alternative to braces for adults that give the same results as traditional metal braces but are much more discrete.
Reasons for Adults to Get Braces
The first and most obvious reason for anyone to get braces is appearance. Straight, clean teeth help you have confidence when you smile. You feel better about your appearance and this translates to others as confidence. Crooked and crowded teeth not only appear unpleasant, but they are also more difficult to keep clean. Flossing is more time-consuming and may not even be possible between some teeth. Stains develop in the corners that cannot be reached and add to the unsightly appearance.
When you can’t clean your teeth properly, other problems start to develop. Tooth decay can ruin your teeth and lead to serious problems with the jawbone if not treated early. Gum disease is a major problem for people who don’t have good oral hygiene. Once the gums become diseased, your teeth can become loose and shift position in your jaw making the crookedness, gaps and overcrowding worse.
Crooked teeth are just the beginning. Other problems braces may fix are:
- Malocclusion or a bad bite, which could be an underbite, overbite, open bite or a crossbite
- Disorders of the jaw joint or jaw position
- Headaches or earaches that are caused by a misaligned jaw
- Difficulty chewing or biting
- Problems speaking
Are all Braces the Same?
The first step to a straight, bright smile is to consult our orthodontist. There are more than one alternative to braces for adults, but your problems need to be diagnosed first before one or another can be recommended. You may have heard of invisible braces, but are they suitable to fix your problems? When your teeth are examined the cause of your problems will be determined. Each type of alternative has limitations, and you will need to decide what you are ready to live with for at least the next year to get your teeth in a healthy position. Some things you will need to consider are:
- The cost of the braces
- The length of time of treatment for each alternative
- If the type you want is effective for your problem
Alternatives to Braces for Adults
Invisalign® is by are the most popular alternative to traditional metal braces for adults. The treatment consists of clear plastic trays that fit over your teeth and are changed for a new one every two weeks. To do this, we take a digital x-ray of your whole mouth and can plan your treatment from the beginning to the end. The trays are made in advance and as your teeth shift position a new tray is given to maintain the pressure until your teeth are in the right place. This also means fewer appointments for checking your progress.
The BPA-free, food-grade plastic aligners are clear, so they are practically invisible. This is a huge advantage for adults who work with the public and need to look their best at all times. Most people will not even realize you are wearing braces unless you tell them and they don’t show in photographs. Some teenagers don’t mind wearing braces and that’s fine, but if they don’t want to because of bullying or teasing, Invisalign® could be the answer.
The plastic trays are removable. This is another huge advantage over traditional braces. It means you can brush and floss normally providing easier oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing with traditional braces is a major undertaking that needs to be done properly or your teeth could be damaged. You may get tooth decay or white spots on your enamel that never goes away. With Invisalign®, you remove the trays to eat or drink anything other than water. Coffee, tea, red wine and colored juices will stain the trays, so you don’t have that nice white smile until you get your next tray.
It may seem inconvenient to remove the tray in a restaurant, but you will find a way to do it privately or discretely. Because you need to wear the aligners only 22 hours each day, you can take it out to attend a special function. It’s up to you to be vigilant about wearing the trays. If you accidentally lose one, contact us immediately so you can get a replacement as quickly as possible. Going without an aligner will extend the overall time of your treatment. With traditional braces, this isn’t a problem because they never come off until the treatment is completed.
With no dietary restrictions, you can eat what you want, but you must brush and floss after each meal. This may seem drastic, but it is part of the process and necessary. Some people carry a travel toothbrush with them. Others find that they snack less often and get a bonus of losing weight.
The trays are comfortable. The plastic is soft and there are no wires to poke your cheek or tongue. It is much easier to get used to them.
The name lingual braces comes from the fact that they are in the same place as your tongue. The advantage is that they are completely invisible from the front, but they take some time to get used to because your tongue is always rubbing against them. They are also the most difficult to keep clean because they are on the back of your teeth but you still have to brush and floss twice a day at least.
These braces work in the same way as the braces on the front of your teeth. They also have dietary restrictions just like traditional metal braces. For the duration of your treatment, you will need to avoid any chewy, sticky or hard foods. It may take time to get used to eating softer foods, but the opposite means you could break a wire or bracket. If this happens, you need to have an emergency appointment and get it fixed quickly. If the problem is left too long, it can extend your treatment time.
Lingual braces require fewer wire adjustments. For most people, it means about three for the whole treatment. The advantage is not only less chair time, but less pain as wire adjustments usually mean a bit of soreness.
The obvious difference between ceramic braces and metal braces is the color. Ceramic braces look and function just like metal braces but ceramic braces have tooth-colored wires and brackets. They are not as invisible as clear plastic trays, but unless a person is right in front of you, they are not easily seen and don’t show up in most photographs. These are a good alternative for adults who need certain kinds of treatment that only traditional braces will fix but they don’t want the metal.
Ceramic braces have food restrictions just like metal braces. The wires are more fragile and need extra care as they will break more easily than metal wires. You may also need to be careful of drinking tea, coffee, fruit juices and red wine because the wires and brackets may stain. If they do, you are stuck with them until the end of your treatment because unlike plastic aligners, they do not change every two weeks.
Retainers are usually given after treatment of braces is finished to keep the teeth in position. However, for closing gaps between teeth or moving a single tooth, they may be prescribed as orthodontic treatment. They are made of plastic and metal and are removable for eating and cleaning. The retainer will be custom made to treat your orthodontic problem and can be adjusted as the treatment progresses.
Cosmetic dentistry is another alternative to braces. Porcelain veneers use wafer-thin, very hard shells that are bonded to one or more teeth. The tooth is ground and the enamel is removed. This is permanent, so if you choose veneers you will need to replace them every five – 10 years. The veneer is bonded to the tooth and can change its position making it straight or shifting it to fill a gap. The porcelain is extremely strong and resilient to staining. For unsightly front teeth, this may be a good option because compared to braces it is quick. Veneers may be also recommended for cracked, broken and severely stained teeth.
Dental bonding is a more conservative approach to improving the spacing between teeth that may ordinarily need braces, but it only suitable for small imperfections.
Get In Touch with Us for More Information
Many adults didn’t get the orthodontic treatment they needed as children. The problem will not go away on its own and may even grow worse as the person ages. This is one reason why one in four people who wear braces are adults. If you would like to straighten your teeth or address a more serious problem, you may be postponing a visit to an orthodontist because you don’t want to be seen with metal braces. To learn more about the best alternative to braces for adults, we warmly invite you to reach out and make an appointment with Unique Orthodontics. At our convenient locations in Fresno, Clovis, Madera, the Buchanan area, and Tulare, our caring and devoted team of professionals will be pleased to explain your options in greater detail and answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to set up your consultation – we look forward to speaking with you!