Braces are considered by most people to be a rite of passage for teenagers, but it’s actually possible to get braces at almost any age.

This type of dental apparatus improves both the function and appearance of teeth by aligning them into the optimal position for the individual’s mouth, which can be beneficial regardless of how old the person receiving orthodontic treatment is.

As lifespans and quality of life have improved for many over the decades, more adults are keeping more of their natural teeth and have more awareness of their appearance. Shouldn’t the confidence that comes with having healthy and straight teeth be accessible for everyone?

Adults may be put off from getting braces due to outdated perceptions of traditional metal braces. However, orthodontic technology has advanced more than many might realize, meaning there are far more options available now than when they were kids themselves.

Choosing the right method takes some consideration, so to help you decide which adult braces could be the right choice for you, here is a guide to the most common types of braces for adults.

Why do adults need braces?

Adult teeth don’t necessarily stay in place as you age. Constant pressures from biting, chewing, and drinking can wear teeth down and cause them to shift slightly, which can also lead to gum problems. Even if you already had braces as a child, failing to wear retainers or changing lifestyle habits can lead to teeth becoming misaligned again over the years.

Braces don’t just help to improve your smile cosmetically – aligning your teeth properly helps to correct your bite and make it easier to maintain oral hygiene, reducing pressure on your jaw and the risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease. If left untreated, this can lead to severe health issues like loss of bone density in your jaw and even heart disease from spreading inflammation.

Even if it’s just about vanity, braces improving the health of your teeth and gums will help you to maintain a healthy and visually appealing smile for much longer. As in children and teenagers, adult braces can correct dental issues that make people self-conscious, including:

  • Crooked teeth and overcrowding
  • Overbites, underbites, and crossbites
  • Open bites and gaps between teeth
  • Jaw irregularities (such as asymmetry)

Correcting these issues can also treat problems they’ve been causing, from pain to difficulties with chewing or speaking. If you experience any of these problems and have been dealing with them for most of your adult life, orthodontic treatment could be the solution.

Adult orthodontics

While treatment plans for adult braces and child orthodontics do differ, as children’s jaws and teeth are still growing, most types of braces used for young people are also available to treat misaligned teeth in fully grown adults.

Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks, so their suitability will vary from one person to the next, depending on their unique dental requirements. Here’s what you need to know about the most popular types of adult braces.

Metal braces

Traditional braces are the most well-known style, being in use for many decades, though they have improved over time with the use of smaller brackets.

Metal braces involve adhering stainless steel brackets to the teeth, and securing a wire through the brackets using small rubber bands. The bands and wire exert pressure on the teeth that causes them to shift gradually into the desired position.

The obvious downside is that metal braces are extremely visible, so everybody will be able to see them when you smile, speak, and eat. They also affect your ability to eat certain hard or sticky foods and require more intensive cleaning.

However, they remain the most common type of braces because they’re usually the most affordable and fastest option for most misalignments. These conventional braces are likely the most efficient option for correcting more complex issues, especially when you consider that an adult’s jaw is more rigid than a child’s and will require more force to move teeth.

Ceramic braces

Ceramic braces are a kind of hybrid between traditional metal braces and clear braces. They have the same functionality and are typically the same size and shape, but as the name suggests, the brackets are made from ceramic rather than metal.

They can be clear or colour-matched to your teeth so that they’re less obvious to the eye, with thinner wires and rubber bands that are also clear or tooth-coloured. This essentially creates the same effect as traditional braces, just less prominently, which is great for adults whose teeth require the stronger pressure of traditional braces but don’t want noticeable metal brackets.

While ceramic braces are still visible, they’re more aesthetically pleasing than metal braces and don’t show up as much in photographs. The downside is that ceramic braces usually cost a bit more than traditional braces, and also require more diligent care.

The ceramic is also much more vulnerable to staining, and the brackets will stay stuck on your teeth until your orthodontist removes them when the treatment is finished, meaning you must be extra careful about avoiding foods and drinks that stain and cleaning your teeth thoroughly and regularly.

Lingual braces

Another alternative to traditional braces, which uses the same method but in a slightly different way, is lingual braces. Also known as inside braces, the brackets are fixed to the back of your teeth rather than the front, making them the most ‘invisible’ type of bracket-and-wire braces.

These have to be custom-made to fit the unique contours of the back of each tooth, which makes the treatment more expensive than traditional metal or ceramic braces. This also means they take longer to fit, and slightly longer to move your teeth into the right position. This may be worth it for adults who need traditional braces but don’t want them to be visible.

However, their placement makes them much more difficult to keep clean. You’ll have to avoid the same foods as you would with traditional braces, and learn how to clean the backs of your teeth more thoroughly without being able to see if there is anything stuck in the brackets.

Additionally, sitting closer to your tongue, lingual braces can be very uncomfortable at first, potentially causing sores and affecting your speech as your tongue comes into contact with them. This should happen less as you get used to them.

Clear aligners

The most popular option when it comes to modern orthodontic treatments is clear aligners. These are custom-made pieces of flexible plastic that are moulded to your teeth and switched every couple of weeks to guide your teeth into the preferred alignment. Being transparent, clear aligners are practically invisible, making them much more discreet.

Though they’re similar to removable retainers, which are worn overnight after having braces to maintain the results, clear aligners actually move your teeth slowly into a new position, and have to be worn 20–22 hours a day to achieve this. You should only remove them to eat and drink, and must clean your teeth before putting them back in.

The most well-known brand of clear aligners is Invisalign, which is very popular among adults who want to straighten their teeth without everyone who sees them knowing about it. With no brackets or wires to cause friction inside your mouth, aligners are normally more comfortable than braces. You also don’t need to change your diet, because you’ll take the aligners out to eat and drink.

As you might expect, Invisalign is often the more expensive option, and can be seen as requiring more effort. You have to switch to new aligners every two weeks and constantly remove the aligners, cleaning carefully every time you want to eat or drink anything besides water.

They can also take longer to move teeth than the bracket-and-wire method, and may not be suitable for correcting more severely crooked teeth or misaligned bites.

Do adult braces take longer?

Orthodontic treatment tends to take between 1 year and 2 years, depending on the complexity of the misalignment and the type of braces or aligners you choose.

The more severe the problem, the longer it will take, especially if you opt for aligners over braces. However, for routine straightening, aligners can take 6–18 months, while conventional braces can take 18 months–2 years.

You may also decide to swap from one treatment to another during the course of straightening, such as beginning with braces and then switching to aligners later on, or vice versa. In some cases, this can speed up treatment which otherwise might have taken longer.

The effectiveness of your orthodontic treatment also depends on how well you stick to the treatment plan and take care of your teeth and braces or aligners. If you aren’t dedicated to wearing the devices as directed and cleaning them faithfully, it can take longer to achieve the result you wanted than originally anticipated.

All of this applies to children, teenagers, and adults alike. It’s never too late to have your teeth straightened – though children are more ideal candidates due to their still-growing jaws being more malleable, there’s no age limit on getting braces.

The only reason that braces might take longer for an adult is if the condition of their teeth is worse due to going longer without treatment – for example, if you have cavities or gum disease which require other treatments before you can look into orthodontics.

Which adult braces are right for you?

With the growing popularity of braces for adults and the wider choice available to suit different lifestyles and priorities, adult orthodontic treatment is definitely a worthwhile investment. Something as simple as straightening your teeth can enhance your health, confidence, and happiness so much that you may regret not getting adult braces sooner.

Of course, the best adult braces for you depend on your personal circumstances. Each type has its limitations, and you’ll also need to take the following into consideration:

  • Budget – How much are you willing to spend on adult braces? Is dental finance available to help you spread the cost in monthly payments?
  • Time – How quickly do you want results? How long are you willing to commit to wearing the braces or aligners and carrying out the required care regimes?
  • Teeth – Are certain types of treatment more viable for your specific condition than others? Which would be most effective for your teeth?

The first step is to see an orthodontist, who can assess the condition of your teeth and bite and explain the best treatment options available to attain the results you want from them. The final decision is yours, but it’s best to follow the expert recommendations of your orthodontist.

Of course, the treatments available and the quality of said treatments depend on the orthodontist you choose to visit. This is why it’s so important to find a highly qualified and reliable dental practice with a good reputation. For example, if you’re looking for orthodontics Warrington, then the outstanding team at Dental Solutions would be happy to help you.