Is it ever too late for adult orthodontic treatment? 5 facts you should know

Adult orthodontic treatment has never been so popular. As people understand more about the benefits of treatment, there’s a desire to take advantage of what was previously only available to a select few. Once people may have asked, why get orthodontic treatment as an adult? Now, I’d say the question is, why wouldn’t you?Less about managing growth and development, adult orthodontic treatment is about keeping teeth for life and feeling good about yourself. Some people want to look their best for an event. Others want assistance with a long term functional bite issue that wasn’t treated as a child. I have also treated patients who simply want to smile with their teeth. Incredibly, they’ve spent their adult life hiding or avoiding smiling this way.It’s true, braces were once the domain of kids and teens. Now, anyone, including any adult, can have their teeth straightened, regardless of their age. Currently, my oldest patient is 74!. Thanks to teeth straightening solutions such as Invisalign and Suresmile, it’s never been easier for adults to have orthodontic treatment – and enjoy the experience.If you’ve ever thought, “I’d love to have teeth as straight as my son/daughter/colleague/best friend”, then read on. Here are five surprising facts you should know if you’re considering adult orthodontic treatment.#1 No referral is needed for adult orthodontic treatmentA little known fact is that no referral is needed to see an orthodontist. While it may not seem a big deal, the hassle of getting a referral to see an orthodontist can be a psychological barrier to taking action. It doesn’t need to be this way.This means adult orthodontic treatment starts with a phone call – by you to an orthodontist directly. Booking an appointment is all it takes to start your orthodontic treatment journey as a grown up. How good is that?While you may choose to consult with your trusted dentist about who best to seek treatment from, many adults now do their own research. Actually, I see this as the first commitment in the treatment journey, ultimately making your orthodontist search an empowering exercise.#2 Adult orthodontic treatment can solve lifelong problemsPeople choose to have orthodontic treatment as adults for many reasons. While some invest in treatment for cosmetic purposes, others are motivated by more practical concerns.Perhaps they want straighter teeth because they know straighter teeth are easier to keep clean. Other patients have concerns that are long standing. These will generally arise if orthodontic treatment was not completed earlier in life, ideally during a child’s peak growth period. As a result, people can live with functional, speech or breathing difficulties that affect them every day. As a clinician, I know adults who’ve lived with speech difficulties since childhood. They’ve openly expressed how these impediments have affected their life. Extending well beyond speaking, they have also impacted their choice of career, friends, and ability to socialise. One particular friend did not speak much as a child because his parents made him aware of his lisp. However, they never sourced treatment for his lisp. Consequently, an older sibling spoke for him instead. Over time, including into adulthood, he lost confidence in his ability to communicate for himself. Effective, well devised orthodontic treatment can address lifelong issues like these, giving people confidence, and ultimately changing their lives.#3 Adult Orthodontic Treatment Can Be Purely CosmeticI’ve already mentioned that orthodontic treatment can be completed for purely cosmetic reasons. It would be easy to think orthodontic treatment is all braces and long treatment times, but that’s just not true.The ease with which cosmetic orthodontic treatment can now be completed means people invest in treatment for big events such as weddings or family reunion. One common cosmetic treatment is straightening the ‘social six’ – the front six teeth in the upper and/or lower jaw. The bonus is treatment for purely cosmetic reasons usually equates to shorter treatment times, even as short as three or six months. The one caveat? It’s absolutely fine to go with a cosmetic solution – as long as you’re aware of the fact that you are also choosing the corresponding outcome. Longer treatments usually equate to more comprehensive solutions where teeth are straightened and the bite is corrected. This is a vastly different outcome to a purely cosmetic solution. #4 Adult Orthodontic Treatment Can Boost Confidence A person’s confidence can be deeply affected by the appearance and function of their teeth. It follows that as these two aspects improve, confidence grows and flows into all other areas of life.The negative psychological impacts from not receiving timely orthodontic treatment are very real. I see this in both child and adult patients before treatment has commenced. Often they are shy, lacking in confidence, don’t like to smile, and aren’t living to their potential.Regardless of the stage of life at which the investment is made, orthodontic treatment returns dividends in opportunities, positive life experience, and other intangible benefits, such as enduring self-confidence.#5 Technology advances make adult orthodontic treatment easy and affordable (really)I know what it’s like to have orthodontic treatment as an adult. During my twenties, I had braces. Although it was far from the dark ages of orthodontic treatment, it was well before Invisalign was a ‘thing’ and orthodontic treatment was accessible in the way it is now.Thankfully, orthodontic treatment for adults is much easier than it’s ever been. Measurable advances in technology and treatment make for better patient experiences and outcomes. It also means treatment is more affordable. Health fund rebates, low or no interest rate funding to cover fees, and flexible payment schedules all make for a more manageable financial orthodontic experience.There are many treatment options available for those seeking treatment as adults. Clear, ceramic braces, metal braces, lingual braces, and clear plastic aligners (such as Invisalign) are considered for adults. Working together with your orthodontist, she can devise the ideal treatment pathway that works for you.Providing adult orthodontic treatment is one of the most satisfying aspects of my practice. Where children and teenagers may not appreciate immediately the difference treatment makes, my adult patients are fully invested in the process and outcome. It’s just further evidence to me that orthodontic treatment has the power to transform lives.Dr Sarah Dan is an orthodontist and an advocate of early interceptive assessment to help improve treatment outcomes for children. Through her experience as a clinician and having orthodontic treatment as an adult herself, Sarah truly understands the orthodontics from the patient’s perspective. She ‘gets’ it and has developed her unique 5-Step Process to help patients navigate the treatment journey to a confident, beautiful smile at any age and stage of life.

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