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7 Childhood Conditions You Can Still Correct

It's never too late to fix that problem — a stutter, lazy eye, a crooked smile — that's bugged you since childhood.

WebMD Feature from "Good Housekeeping" Magazine

Josie Richardson was surprised when her dentist suggested she get braces. Although she'd always been embarrassed by her overlapping teeth, at 46 she'd resigned herself to her imperfect smile. But when the dentist pointed out that it was more than just a cosmetic issue -it's harder to clean between crooked teeth -Richardson, a jewelry designer in Boca Raton, FL, signed on for the mouthful of hardware normally associated with teens. Indeed, soon after, she and her 14-year-old son became a matched pair. Now, four years later, Richardson says, "I look for reasons to smile."

There are a host of cosmetic and medical conditions, from crooked teeth to reading difficulties, that are normally corrected in childhood. But if you missed out, now is the time to reconsider. Thanks to treatment advances and the extra motivation that maturity brings, it might be an even better time. "Fixing an issue you've had for many years can give you a huge boost in self-esteem," says Lauren Ozbolt, M.D., assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. And you won't be the only grown-up trying to squeeze into the tiny seats in the waiting room: More and more adults are now confronting these formerly "kids-only" problems.

Crooked Teeth

The over-18 crowd makes up nearly a quarter of orthodontic patients, reports the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). One reason women may be more interested is the development of more aesthetic hardware, like enamel-colored braces and removable clear aligners that slide over teeth (Invisalign is the best-known brand), says Michael B. Rogers, D.D.S., president of the AAO.

The downside to having waited: Teeth that have twisted for many years try harder to return to their original positions once braces are removed. Your orthodontist may attach a wire to the backs of your teeth or send you to a periodontist who'll snip tiny gum fibers that may pull the teeth. Expect to pay around $5,000 (likely more in big cities); some dental policies cover the procedure, but many pay only for kids 18 and under.

Klutziness

Some women knock over their water glasses or bump into doors so often, they assume clumsiness is part of their makeup. Wrong. One reason may be that muscles are weak, says Mary Ann Wilmarth, D.P.T., chief of physical therapy at Harvard University Health Services. "Even if you work out regularly, you could be shortchanging certain areas," she says. Having a weak rotator cuff in your shoulder, for example, can cause you to rely on your smaller hand muscles when reaching for dishes in the cupboard, which leads you to drop them. Poorly toned hip muscles could make you trip when navigating curbs. A physical therapist can show you the best strength-training exercises and work with you on ways to move more fluidly. You might also want to learn to focus your mind (one effective way: incorporating the practice of mindfulness into your regimen). Robin Dilley, a psychologist in Phoenix, loved to hike, but was always falling over her feet until she realized how often she was thinking about something else. Once she began focusing on the trail, the problem disappeared.

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