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Straight Talk About Braces for Adults

It's never too late to perfect your smile -- just ask the increasing number of adults who are rushing to the orthodontist.
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WebMD Feature

Thinking about getting braces? Experts say it's never too late. These days, adults make up nearly half of orthodontic patients hoping to finally get the perfect smile they've always dreamed about.

Braces have evolved considerably in the last 15 years. Breathe easy, the days of being a true "metal mouth" are over and more lightweight and cosmetically friendly options are out there.

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"The [brackets] are smaller and we don't use all the bands or appliances that wrap all the way around [the tooth] like we used to. Now, we use bonded brackets that are a lot smaller or the clear braces that are a lot more cosmetic as far as their appearance," Michael Sebastian, DDS, an orthodontist in Atlanta, tells WebMD. Sebastian says this and less pain and time associated with wearing braces have more adults making the plunge. Sebastian says adults can expect to wear braces an average of 12 to 20 months.

Bracing for Braces

But why now? Maybe the reason is as an adult you can afford braces when your parents couldn't or you are simply more conscious of the cosmetic and health benefits of having straight teeth.

Most people want a great smile, and adults know that it can make a great difference not only in their personal but also their professional lives. Many say the payoff is worth the temporary inconvenience and expense of braces.

"Patients that I see now, I think there's an initial concern, but if they really and truly want the braces, they're not that concerned once they make the decision. Once they've made up their mind to get them, they fall right in because they either know someone that had them before or they've seen their kids go through it and they want the same thing for themselves," says Duane Anglin, DDS, a dentist outside of Baltimore who decided to get braces during dental school. He says he has no regrets.

"From a professional standpoint, I think I'm a lot more comfortable walking in the room and saying hello, good morning, and meeting a new patient for the first time, because in the back of my mind it was always, 'How am I going to be a dentist and have teeth that are not straight?'" he says.

Sebastian says age shouldn't be a worry. He says as people live longer, he sees more adults of all ages interested in preserving their teeth. Senior citizens are even becoming more common in his practice.

The Healthy Smile

Dental professionals say there are also health reasons for having a correct bite.

"With teeth that are in cross bite, teeth that are misaligned, there is an increased chance of plaque buildup, food buildup in between your teeth, which is a trickle-down effect because the more food buildup, the more plaque; therefore, the more concern for periodontal disease and gum disease," Anglin tells WebMD. Improper bite also means you can't chew food properly, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems, he says.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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