GRIN AND BEAR IT?

Orthodon­tic op­tions for adults are less con­spic­u­ous than you think

201 Health - - News - WRIT­TEN BY RYAN GREENE

Orthodon­tic op­tions for adults are less con­spic­u­ous than you think

From van­ity to med­i­cal ne­ces­sity, adults seek out the aid of an or­tho­don­tist for all sorts of rea­sons. And as tough as braces can be for teenagers, wear­ing them can be even more fraught for grownups – a mouth­ful of me­tal never helps any­one get that cor­ner of­fice.

Thank­fully, ac­cord­ing to the National In­sti­tutes of Health, op­tions for adult orthodon­tic treat­ment are more var­ied and ad­vanced than they used to be. That means more and more adults are turn­ing to the likes of In­visalign and per­ma­nent re­tain­ers to cor­rect im­per­fec­tions that went un­ad­dressed when they were chil­dren or that de­vel­oped later in life.

NEEDS AND WANTS

Some peo­ple re­quire braces or other cor­rec­tive mea­sures for a spe­cific med­i­cal rea­son. Some just want to look bet­ter. Orthodon­tics usu­ally come into play for at least one of the fol­low­ing rea­sons.

COR­RECT­ING BITE

Orthodon­tic treat­ment can ad­dress an over­bite (when the up­per teeth align farther for­ward than the lower teeth) or the more se­vere is­sue of an un­der­bite (when the lower jaw juts farther for­ward than the up­per). A par­tic­u­larly se­vere over- or un­der­bite can cause se­ri­ous tis­sue dam­age.

STRAIGHT­EN­ING TEETH

Teeth can grow in crooked, crowded or too widely spaced. That can af­fect ev­ery­thing from the jaw’s align­ment to the way a per­son chews food. It can even cause headaches and back­aches.

FIX­ING MIS­CEL­LA­NEOUS PROB­LEMS

As a per­son grows older, the roof of the mouth can change, al­ter­ing bite and align­ment. Orthodon­tic treat­ment can also re­solve all man­ner of other is­sues, in­clud­ing speech im­ped­i­ments and sleep ap­nea.

COS­MET­ICS

When you just want the so-called per­fect smile.

TREAT­MENTS

Just as orthodon­tic treat­ments ad­dress a wide va­ri­ety of is­sues, they come in a va­ri­ety of forms, each with its par­tic­u­lar mer­its.

TRA­DI­TIONAL BRACES

Tried-and-true reme­dies are usu­ally the best. The old re­li­able of clas­sic wire braces still does the trick, but the cliché of the me­tal mouth no longer ap­plies (as much). Now or­tho­don­tists can use much smaller brack­ets to bond the arch wire to the teeth, so they’re less no­tice­able. The wire is now avail­able in stain­less steel, titanium or gold-plated va­ri­eties.

IN­VIS­I­BLE BRACES

Tra­di­tional braces are still the most com­monly used treat­ment op­tion, in part be­cause they’re the least ex­pen­sive. They’re not ideal for adults, gen­er­ally, since vis­i­ble braces tend to make even the most pro­fes­sional per­son look like a teenager. But lin­gual, or in­vis­i­ble, braces – tra­di­tional me­tal braces af­fixed to the back of the teeth in­stead of the front – of­fer a healthy com­pro­mise.

CLEAR BRACES

Th­ese of­fer an­other twist on tra­di­tional braces. Brack­ets of plas­tic or ce­ramic and ties of white me­tal or clear elas­tic blend in rea­son­ably well with the nat­u­ral color of the teeth. The down­side is that they tend to be more brit­tle than me­tal braces and tougher and more time con­sum­ing to re­move.

ALIGN­ERS

In­visalign and other brands of clear align­ers rep­re­sent a rel­a­tively re­cent ad­vance in orthodon­tics. The or­tho­don­tist takes im­pres­sions of the pa­tient’s teeth and cre­ates a trans­par­ent mold that fits over the teeth. Ev­ery few weeks, the or­tho­don­tist re­peats the process, mak­ing a new mold each time. Those align­ers force the teeth into proper align­ment grad­u­ally. Be­cause they’re vir­tu­ally in­vis­i­ble, align­ers are pop­u­lar among adults. But they’re more ex­pen­sive than braces, and they have to be re­moved when­ever the wearer eats and cleaned be­fore be­ing put back in. The pres­sure can also be un­com­fort­able, and align­ers aren’t suit­able for cer­tain com­plex is­sues.

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