Straight talk about orthodontic appliances for adults
My mom is mad at me for breaking my retainer, which would be perfectly understandable… except I’m 40 years old. “Do you know how much I paid for you to have straight teeth?” she yells into the phone.
While she’s been asking me since I was in sixth grade, I still have no idea how much she actually paid – the price seems to fluctuate based on her level of anger. Today she claims it cost her “a billion dollars”.
A year ago, my permanent retainer – a flexible wire at the back of my lower middle teeth – broke. It’s been around for decades, so I thought my perfect teeth were firmly in place. But as (bad) luck would have done, the teeth bothered very little to conform to the guys next to them, so little by little they took on a crooked shape. I could have taken my dentist’s advice and gone to an orthodontist, but this task hung at the bottom of my to-do list somewhere about to finish my taxes and learn to cook.
And while we’re being honest, we’re not just talking about my lower teeth. I ditched the removable retainer for my rods when I was 20 (sorry, mom) and developed vampire fangs as a result. The only adult I know who still wears her retainer is my mother, who had braces in her late fifties. I found it weird at the time: Braces, like acne and damaged hair, are a necessary evil for most children, but which adult would happily choose them? It turns out that several. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, the number of patients over 18 who choose braces has nearly doubled in the past 30 years.
Savannah-based orthodontist Dr. Mark Dusek of Broderick, Dusek & Deleon identifies the top two reasons his adult patients request braces. “It’s either because they needed them when they were younger, but their parents couldn’t afford it, or because they never wore their retainers and their teeth moved.
According to the American Association of Orthodontists, the number of patients over 18 who choose braces has nearly doubled in the past 30 years.
It certainly sounds familiar, but I felt like teeth are like the rest of our body – the older we get, the harder they are to move – but Dusek assures me the opposite: old and young teeth move. at about the same rate. . On the positive side, Dusek says braces aren’t as painful as they used to be. (I got them when I was 10 and remember telling my mom I felt like I had chewed on a porcupine.) Advances in technology mean smaller brackets and metal wires that apply much gentler pressure to the teeth. “Ninety-five percent of the time, patients will not feel anything when they wear braces and when they undergo routine crunch,” notes Dusek.
When it comes to treatment, adult patients have more options than ever before. Those who don’t care about the heavy metal look can choose orthodontic appliances constructed with transparent ceramic brackets connected to thin silver or white wires. Clear gutters are another option, which provide a completely metal-free experience. Custom-made plastic aligners are held in place by natural-colored clips attached to the teeth. Although removable, the trays are designed to be worn throughout the treatment, only taken out to eat. Every two weeks, the aligners are replaced with different shaped aligners, gradually moving the teeth into place.
But do clear gutters work as well as conventional metal tracks? Savannahian Kathy Forman, a retired speech-language pathologist, did not need braces as a child, but after having her own children, who are now 13 and 15, her teeth began to move. Spaces formed and she could tell her bite was off. Since her children were “horrified that their mother was a metal mouth,” Forman opted for Invisalign, a popular brand of clear aligners. Three months after starting her six-month treatment, she says she can already see the positive results taking shape. Forman admits that vanity was the main reason to get the fix and believes the investment was worth it. “No one noticed my teeth except me, but I was sick of them being crooked,” she says. “Besides, I have a big smile, I want it to be nice.”
It’s human nature to want straight teeth, but adult orthodontic appliances have other benefits. According to Dr. Ryan Reeves of Beyond Exceptional Dentistry of Savannah, our teeth also wear down from clenching, grinding, fillings, crowns and, let’s face it, aging. All of this, he says, can lead to thinning lips, sagging skin, and deep creases between the lower lip and chin. “Over time, the bite collapses, which narrows the lower third of your face,” says Reeves.
By straightening and moving teeth into the correct occluding position, Reeves says braces can rejuvenate a patient for 10 to 15 years.
Straight teeth and a non-surgical facelift all in one? Sign me up.