Teeth Straightening for Adults: Know Your Options
Studies show that beautiful smiles can increase your career success and overall attractiveness. Plus, crooked teeth or bite misalignments can lead to jaw issues, gum disease, and even tooth breakage.
Different teeth straightening approaches follow the same basic principle: They apply constant pressure to teeth, causing them to move into the desired position. Most fall into the category of braces, which use a combination of brackets, bands, spacers, wires, tubes, ligatures, and springs in different combinations depending on your straightening needs. Your orthodontist will discuss the best options for you, but tooth straightening option involves an investment of time, money, and some pain. So it's smart to do your research before you choose one treatment.
Brackets are bonded to the front of each tooth and connected by wires. The brackets and wires can be made of stainless steel or tooth-colored ceramic or plastic. While tooth-colored options look better, they can become discolored or cause additional friction, extending the length of time you have to wear them.
Lingual-Type Bracket Braces
Lingual-type braces are very similar to bracket-style braces, except that instead of being mounted on the front of teeth, they're attached to the back of teeth and hidden from view. Many orthodontists don't offer this option and they are often more expensive than bracket-style braces.
Traditional Band Braces
These old-school "Metal Mouth" braces are rarely used nowadays. They use heavier metal brackets and bands, and were likely common when you were growing up.
These are typically more expensive than regular braces, but they are 30 percent smaller and purportedly just as strong.
A great option when only minor adjustments are needed, these are clear plastic "caps" are custom made for your teeth. They're worn for a few weeks at a time, and need to be removed to eat and care for teeth.
Most-often used as part of the after-care from your braces, retainers contain wires that help hold teeth in their new position. They can be removable or permanent.
The most common question most adults (and adolescents) will ask during this process is, "How long will I have to wear these?" Many factors affect how long your braces will need to stay on, including the extent of the adjustment, the overall health of your mouth, and how well you care for your teeth and braces. Generally, braces require one to three years of wear to do their job, followed by six months of wearing a retainer. Adults will usually need to wear braces longer, since adult bones aren't still growing.
If you do decide to get your teeth straightened, the most important thing to remember is to follow instructions very carefully and pay particular attention to dental hygiene. Certain foods and bad care can damage braces or teeth.
Ada.org: "Braces and Orthodontics." American Dental Association. Web. 2012
Myclevelandclinic.org: "Braces and Retainers." Cleveland Clinic. Web. June 20, 2011.
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