Straightening teeth: orthodontics and braces for adults

Specialist Orthodontist at Bupa UK
07 February 2017
Young woman smiling

These days, people of all ages have orthodontic treatment. As an adult, you can have orthodontic treatment just as you would if you were in your teens. A specialist orthodontist can design a smile for you and straighten your teeth. This may improve your ‘bite’ and help you keep your teeth and gums cleaner. New technology now also means you could benefit from almost invisible treatment.

Aging dentition

As you get older, you may notice your previously straight smile becomes crooked. Your teeth can appear crowded (too close or overlapping) or you may have gaps between them. This is because your teeth can drift over time. This can affect the way you bite (leading to wear) and how easily you clean your teeth.

It’s important to look after your teeth, whatever your age. You should see your dentist regularly for a check-up to make sure your teeth and gums are healthy. Periodontal disease (infection of the structures around your teeth) can make your teeth drift more, and the gaps between your teeth can get bigger. Because this is usually painless, you may not realise you have a problem.

Orthodontic treatment

Orthodontic treatment can move your teeth into a better position and allow you to feel more comfortable with the appearance of your smile. Your specialist orthodontist will assess your teeth and plan the best way to straighten them. There aren’t many reasons why you can’t have orthodontic treatment, but having periodontal disease is one. If you want orthodontic treatment, this will need to be treated first. You may also need to see a hygienist to check your brushing technique.

Your specialist orthodontist should be able to straighten your teeth with braces. Technology has advanced so much in recent years that it’s relatively easy to deliver high-quality treatment in a discreet way. There are many different types of braces, so it’s important to speak to your specialist orthodontist about what’s best for you. You may be worried about people knowing you’re having orthodontic treatment. But you can have ‘hidden’ lingual braces that are glued to the inside of your teeth (tongue side), white ceramic braces, or clear plastic aligners.

The timeframe of the treatment varies from person to person. You may wear your braces for between 12 and 18 months, but sometimes it takes less than six. You may notice the first changes to your teeth alignment within a few weeks. Your orthodontist may ask to see you around every five to seven weeks to adjust your braces. Follow your orthodontist’s advice, as you may need to keep your brace on for longer so your teeth are as stable as possible.

Once you no longer need your braces, your orthodontist will fit you with a retainer. This makes sure your teeth stay in the correct position. You’ll need to keep using a retainer at night. Over time, you may be able to reduce the number of nights you wear it. Once you stop, your teeth may go crooked again. Your orthodontist will tell you exactly what to do.

Pros and cons

There are both pros and cons which should be considered before you decide to go ahead with orthodontic treatment.

  • Braces work well but you’ll need to look after your teeth while you’re wearing them. You’ll need to take extra care when cleaning your teeth and watch what you eat and drink.
  • Sometimes braces and plastic aligners can rub on your tongue or cheek and cause ulcers. Your orthodontist will tell you how to prevent this.
  • The effects of orthodontic treatment can last a long time, but they aren’t necessarily permanent. After treatment your teeth will want to move back into their original position (this is known as relapse). Wearing your retainer as instructed by your orthodontist can help to prevent this.

Dr Katarzyna Proczek
Specialist Orthodontist at Bupa UK

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