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Braces aren't just for kids anymore. You might want to consider them when you're past the teenage years for a number of reasons. You'll have lots of choices to get the best smile you can.

How Braces Can Help

Correct shifting teeth. Just because you had braces as a kid doesn't mean you're off the hook. "Teeth tend to move a little throughout your life," says Michael B. Rogers, DDS, past president of the American Association of Orthodontists.

Straighten crooked teeth. Braces can line up teeth that are bending in different directions. And that's a recipe for a winning smile.

Better oral health. It's no surprise that straight teeth are easier to brush and floss. If you're doing your part, expect less decay and healthier gums, says Pamela K. McClain, DDS, past president of the American Academy of Periodontology.

Braces can help you manage some more serious issues, too, such as bite problems that cause jaw pain. You also may sometimes need to get braces to change the position of teeth before getting a new bridge, crown, or implant.

New Options

Braces today are a lot different from the ones you may remember when you were a kid. Many are hard to notice right off when other people are looking at you.

Some choices for you are:

Ceramic braces. These are made of a white material that's much less obvious than traditional metal braces.

Lingual brackets. They're attached to the inside surface of your teeth that faces your tongue. They hold wires that pull them into a new position.

Custom-made clear plastic aligners. They fit like guards over your teeth and gently move your bite into a new position.

What to Expect

How long you'll need to wear braces depends on the type you get and what you're trying to fix. The length of time ranges from 12 to 44 months.

"Adult teeth sometimes take longer than children's teeth to move into new positions," Rogers says. "But in many cases there's no real difference."

You'll need to take extra care cleaning your teeth when you have braces. Some dentists recommend brushing after every meal and at bedtime.