A Bracing Experience? Helpful Information For Adults Undergoing Orthodontic Treatment

Although the wearing of dental braces has always been somewhat synonymous with children in their formative adolescent and teenage years, a significant number of adults also want or need this type of orthodontic care. According to a leading dental insurance provider, there are currently four million people in the United States who wear braces, one of every four of which are of adult age.

Some of these adults who are now sporting braces or retainers did not seek or perhaps could not afford dental care as children, while others may have had dental care but not received the results that were hoped for. Still others have decided to be fitted for braces now to overcome dental issues due to an injury, medical, or oral health issue. If you are an adult seeking braces or other types of orthodontia to correct a dental health or cosmetic issue, here are some things you should know. 

Braces may help adults deal with TMD and other health issues

Braces for adults are not restricted to eliminating gaps or addressing cosmetic concerns. In fact, many adults are fitted with braces to specifically address important health issues, such as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Adults who suffer from this disorder often experience excruciating pain and discomfort centered around the joints, muscles, and ligaments of the jaw and face. Because much of the discomfort is thought to be related to the collapse of the facial structure in that area, braces are sometimes used to help add support to the area and relieve the patient's discomfort. 

Braces do not have to detract from your appearance

Adults, particularly those who are involved in professional careers, may worry that wearing braces will detract from the polished appearance they want to present. Fortunately, the materials and designs used to construct today's dental orthodontia are no longer limited to the gleaming stainless steel used several decades ago. 

Instead, today's braces and retainers are lightweight, comfortable designs that require smaller, less-obtrusive brackets and wires. Orthodontists also have the ability to choose materials like plastics or ceramics that more closely match the color and appearance of natural teeth. 

Another option is a type of orthodontia referred to as a lingual appliance. This type of dental appliance is designed to remain hidden and attaches to the back side of the teeth, allowing the wearer to smile with confidence while wearing it. Downsides to this nearly invisible brace option include possible irritation to the tongue and oral tissues, speech issues, and a more intensive maintenance routine. 

Braces can work differently for adult patients

While braces are worth considering for many adult dental health issues, it is important to remember that they may work differently, be less successful, or even unsuitable for some conditions and issues. In part, this is because adults have bones and skeletal structures that are no longer undergoing rapid growth and change. This can mean that any positive changes obtained from wearing braces can be much slower to show improvement.

Where a child's rapidly growing dental plates and bone structure may reflect straightening from braces after just a few months of wearing braces, adults may require years of wear to receive the same level of change. 

Adults who suffer from gum disease may also require more dental care while wearing braces than a child might while wearing similar orthodontia. This is because gum disease in adults often results in shrinking gum tissue or bone loss that can make cleaning and maintaining the braces much more difficult. 

Adults who are dealing with a dental, health, or appearance issue that they feel might be improved with braces or other types of orthodontia should discuss their situation and goals with their dental health provider or orthodontist