An increasing number of adults are heading for the orthodontist. Here's what you should consider before you get braces
When Heather Rowe was a little girl she didn't wear braces on her teeth. She remembers, "Back then, my smile was fine and people just thought braces were cosmetic." Fast forward 50 years and Rowe, 57, a retired speech pathologist in St. Catharine's, Ontario, is having trouble with her bite. "My jaw gets sore and my crooked teeth are hitting the back of my front teeth." Rowe has decided to join her daughter Katrina, 16, (who just started wearing braces) in achieving a better smile and a healthier mouth.
Adult braces a growing trend
Rowe is one of a growing number of adults heading to the orthodontist to fix their teeth.
The president of the Canadian Association of Orthodontists, Dr. Gerald Zeit, says he has no specific statistics on older people and braces but about 25 per cent of his patients are over 40. (The American Association of Orthodontists says there were more than 62,000 orthodontic patients in Canada in 2004, with a 37 per cent increase in adult patients between 1994-2004.)
Dr. Zeit says older patients decide to fix their teeth for two main reasons. "People didn't have the opportunity to have treatment when they were young but they do now. Other patients have developed a need later in life—maybe they've lost a tooth and developed a dental disease."
New options for braces
These days, the options for braces are much more varied than what was offered years ago. Yes, there are the traditional braces, but they are smaller, neater and less apparent these days. They come in either metal or a clear ceramic. Then there are lingual braces that go on the inside of the teeth. Dr. Zeit says the downside of those is that they are more difficult to clean. The newest type of braces to hit the scene are clear aligner braces that are clear, removable sleeves the patient changes every couple of weeks. They usually are recommended for patients who do not need significant work done.
Just as the options are different these days, so is the price tag. Traditional braces can cost up to $8,000. Clear aligners range from $7,000 to $9,000 and lingual braces range from $9,500 to $13,000. The treatment time ranges from about nine months to two and a half years.
Caution for women who have osteoporosis While those over 40 are generally happy with the results, Dr. Zeit does have a word of caution. He says women on certain medications for osteoporosis may be more prone to bone infections in the jaw, which can be a concern if extractions are involved.
Wendy Martens, 49, a special needs assistant in Winnipeg, got her braces off last November. She wore them for two years and is ecstatic with the way she looks. "I got them done because my daughter had them and she now had the most amazing smile. I was thinking, ‘Why does she get to have beautiful teeth and not me?'
Now that her teeth are straight, she feels younger and better looking.
Braces do hurt
However, Martens has developed a major snoring problem since getting the braces off. She has managed to lessen it quite a bit with a mouth guard but the problem remains.
As well, she cautions those considering braces that they do hurt. "It hurts for days after you've had an adjustment. There were times I couldn't even bite into a banana. I didn't lose weight though—I managed to suck chocolate."
When Rowe's braces go on, she will be wearing a combination of clear aligner braces on some of her top teeth along with silver braces on her bottom teeth. She says it has happily turned into a bonding mother/daughter experience for her. "I let my daughter get hers on first because I wanted to make sure she actually got them. Funnily enough, she was worried I was going to bail on her. Pretty soon, we'll both have them and I feel sorry for my husband who has to live with two females with braces."
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