Am I too old for braces?

Woman holding invisible braces

If you’re no longer a teenager, the possibility of getting braces might not sound appealing.

You may recall the silver smiles of your classmates in grade school, their complaints of wires being tightened every few months.

The good news: Braces have changed, and there are a lot more options for straightening your teeth.

If you’re thinking about braces as an adult, consider this:

As long as you’re healthy, there’s no age limit for braces

I have patients in their 70s and 80s. You’re not too old for braces as long as you’re healthy. Some conditions that might prevent you from having braces as an adult include diabetes and osteoporosis. If you’re concerned, you should consult with an orthodontist.

Whether you’re a good candidate for braces depends on the amount of bone that’s left holding your teeth. As you age, your bones shrink and so does your gum tissue, increasingly pulling away from each tooth, exposing the base. If your gums or the bone holding your teeth haven’t shrunk too much, then braces likely will work for you. To apply force on a tooth that allows it to move, the bone holding the tooth can’t be too small.

There are more braces options besides the traditional metal brackets and wires

While traditional metal braces are still available, there are two alternatives for patients:

  • Ceramic braces that are the color of your teeth
  • Clear aligners, such as Invisalign, that you can put in and take out of your mouth — kind of like retainers

Braces are generally more effective than aligners, and an aligner may take more time for the same type of tooth movement that braces can do.

The benefits are more than just a straighter smile

Straightening your teeth can also help your mouth stay healthy. When your teeth are crowded or crooked and they don’t align correctly, your teeth and gums can be more difficult to clean and can develop bacteria. Gum disease can occur, and without treatment, that can destroy the bone that supports your teeth, causing teeth to loosen or lead to tooth loss.

You may need some dental work before getting your teeth straightened

If your teeth are damaged by decay, you may need dental restoration treatments, such as a crown or root canal, before your teeth are straightened. Or if your teeth are inflamed as a result of a gum disease, a dental cleaning to reduce the inflammation might be necessary. Inflammation can cause uncontrolled bone loss once braces are applied.

Treatment may take longer than when you were an adolescent, but it’s worth the wait

Braces for adolescents typically take about two years. For adults, it can take longer because the cellular response in bones is slower as you age. If you’re not counting on creating a perfect smile, you can achieve fairly straight teeth as an adult. Consult with an orthodontist to find out what’s possible.

Your teeth will still shift after braces, so wear your retainer forever

We tell patients, “Your retainer is for your lifetime.” Tissue in your mouth tends to pull teeth back to where they had been before your teeth were straightened, unless you’re wearing a retainer. When you first get a retainer, you’ll need to wear it all day, every day, for the first three months, then eventually just at night.

Healthy teeth start here

Ohio State offers complete general and specialty dental care, including emergency care for patients of all ages.

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