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Women's Health

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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.

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