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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.

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 clear route.

"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 overcrowded teeth.

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.

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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