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.
The Healthy Smile continued...
So how do you get that Hollywood smile? There are more options
than ever. With traditional braces, you can select metal or clear/ceramic
braces, but there are pros and cons.
"Traditional metal braces -- if the patient has a
significant bite problem or severely crooked teeth -- are slightly more
effective at moving teeth than clear braces. If you came to me and said, 'I
want my teeth as straight as fast as possible,' and you had really crooked
teeth, then I'd say put metal braces on," Sebastian says.
He says clear braces work fine in most cases but there are some
downfalls. The adhesive that holds the bracket in place can stain from dark
drinks and smoking, and they cost more than metal braces.
Often, adults hoping to avoid "metal mouth" go the
"I'm not embarrassed about having [braces] at my age
because you see a lot of people now, young adults, even older adults wearing
braces," says Ivy Horn, a lawyer in Atlanta who is considering
clear/ceramic braces after already wearing metal braces as a teen. "In my
field I do a lot of speaking when I am in court a lot. I just think it would
look better if I had the clear braces rather than the metal braces so people
aren't focusing so much on what's in my mouth but the words that are coming out
of my mouth."
Statistics from the October Journal of Clinical
Orthodontics show that the average cost of an adult set of braces in the
U.S. is $4,800.
Invisalign vs. Braces
Another option for the vain at heart is Invisalign. Patients
wear a series of clear, removable orthodontic aligners that are adjusted as the
teeth shift into place without metal or wires. A series of custom-made aligners
are worn each for a period of two weeks. Each aligner moves the teeth
progressively into place. Average total treatment time: a few months to 1 1/2
years. While orthodontists say Invisalign can be a good alternative to
traditional braces, there are limitations.
"Invisalign does not do a great job on vertical problems,
where the teeth are at different heights, teeth are lower or higher than
others. It doesn't not do a good job on teeth that are severely rotated, and it
does not do a good job at correcting bite issues," says Sebastian, who also
says Invisalign would also not be the best option for fixing severely
Sebastian says Invisalign can cost an average of $500 more than
a one-year treatment with traditional braces.
A critical component of braces are the end game -- wearing the
retainer. "It used to be, your teeth are straight, you wear retainers for a
year, it will never change. Well, we know that's just not fact. Now we have to
tell patients to plan on retention for years; lifetime retention is the word
that they use now," says Sebastian, who has a number of patients who are
repeat orthodontic clients.