Welcome to Frequently Asked Questions: Adult Orthodontic Patients (tm) part 2

Contents: Are There Health Advantages To Adult Orthodontic Treatment? How is adult orthodontic treatment different than teenage orthodontic treatment? What does adult orthodontic treatment feel like? Will I be stuck with a "metal mouth" look when I have braces?

Are There Health Advantages To Adult Orthodontic Treatment?

Yes. When your teeth are crooked, they are harder to clean and will wear unevenly. Your gums can get inflamed and your teeth hurt. Eventually, you will lose your teeth. Orthodontic treatment can inhibit gum problems and prevent tooth loss.

Also, remember that chewing is the first part of digestion. If you do not chew your food properly, the rest of you digestive system will have to work harder. The harder you digestive system works, the faster it ages. Orthodontic treatment can prevent premature aging of your digestive system.

How is adult orthodontic treatment different than teenage orthodontic treatment?

It is basically the same, with a few minor differences.

One difference is that the treatment takes longer. As you get older, you heal more slowly. As a result, the orthodontist needs to be more gentle with his treatment. The orthodontist can still move your teeth, but the orthodontist needs to move your teeth more slowly to let your mouth heal between tightening appointments.

The other difference is that it is harder to enlarge your mouth to get all of your teeth to fit. In the FAQ for teenage orthodontic patients(tm), we noted that when you are growing, your jaw is like clay; if your mouth is too small for your teeth, the orthodontist can stretch your mouth so everything fits. Well, once you stop growing, your jaw hardens; it is difficult for an orthodontist to stretch your jaw. Some people elect to have their jaw enlarged surgically. However, most adults decide to have their teeth straightened, but not get their jaw enlarged.

That changes the treatment somewhat because the orthodontist may have to remove some teeth to make everything fit while the orthodontist could have stretched your jaw if you had come in for treatment when you were a teenager. Nevertheless, orthodontic treatment still works. It just goes slower and may be slightly more painful when you are older, because the orthodontist cannot stretch your jaw and teeth need to be pulled.

What does adult orthodontic treatment feel like?

Well, the beginning part of the treatment is harder for adult patients than for teenagers. However, after treatment gets started, things are the same whether you are a teenager or an adult.

Recall that some adults need to have teeth pulled, or surgery to expand their jaw. Well, pulling teeth is not fun. Neither is surgery. Still, the oral surgeon uses an anesthetic when he pulls your teeth, and gives you pills for the pain. Usually the pain is gone after about 48 hours, and then you are home free.

The orthodontist then puts in your braces. You mouth will be tender for about a week, but then the tenderness should go away, and you will hardly notice your braces except when they are tightened.

Most adults say that after they start orthodontic treatment, their teeth feel like their teeth have come loose. When a teenager gets braces, the orthodontist is usually moving teeth that have come in fairly recently. The result is that the teeth are easy to move. As you get older, your teeth get anchored to your jaw with little filaments. The orthodontist needs to loosen those filaments before your teeth will move. As a result, your teeth feel loose. Still the loose feeling is nothing to worry about. The filaments will tighten again once your orthodontic treatment is done.

Other than that, orthodontic treatment will feel the same whether you get treatment when you are in your teens, or whether you get treatment when you are an adult. Your mouth will be tender for a week after your braces are first put on, and there will be some pain when your braces are tightened. However, the pain is manageable; and the results will make you look fantastic.

Will I be stuck with a "metal mouth" look when I have braces?

Definitely not. Braces have changed a lot in the last 20 years and you do not have to get a metal mouth when you get braces.

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