adult with braces

Many people think only teens get braces, but adults get braces too. Learn pros, cons, & different options of getting braces as an adult.

Some people think they are too old for braces. However, age is not a determining factor in whether a person is eligible for orthodontic treatment. As long as your gums and bones are healthy enough, it's never too late to get the smile you always wanted.

It might surprise you to learn that many adults get braces and other forms of adult orthodontics. In 2014, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) estimated that 1.5 million adults had treatment with an AAO orthodontist.[1]

Braces for adults aren't just a thing in the states. In 2020, the Australian Society of Orthodontists (ASO) said practices report that 25 to 30 percent of their patients are over 18, and 62 percent of adults are considering orthodontic treatment.[2]

As you can see, adult braces are common these days. Moreover, it isn't just the twenty-something crowd. 

It isn't unusual to see patients in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond in treatment. 

This article explores the benefits of adult orthodontics, the pros and cons of getting braces as an adult, and the types of adult orthodontic treatment available. In addition, we will talk about the cost of braces for adults, how long you can expect to be in orthodontic treatment and some essential considerations for managing braces in adults. 

So, let's start with the good stuff, shall we?

Why Get Braces as an Adult?

Deciding to get braces is a personal consideration. However, age should not be a factor that keeps you from doing it in your decision-making process. Patients both young and old find that orthodontic treatment gives them a lot of benefits in addition to the smile they always wanted. 

Benefits of Adult Braces

Who hasn't seen an image of themselves reflected from a screen these days and wondered if it wasn't time to address various aspects of their appearance? And chief among these areas of concern is your smile. The increased use of social media and online meeting apps for remote working has increased the demand for a better smile. 

However, looking better by having a straighter smile is only one benefit of modern orthodontic treatment. There are many other essential benefits to your oral health that you should consider. 

For example, fixing problems with your occlusion, which means the way your teeth come together in a bite, prevents complications with your oral health over time. Also, decay can be more prevalent when teeth aren't straight due to difficulties in keeping misaligned teeth clean. When teeth are suffering decay, it also can lead to gum disease that, if left untreated, can lead to tooth and bone loss. Even worse, gum disease has been linked to higher risks for other systemic conditions in the body, including stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. 

Types of Braces

We called this article "Adult Braces," but that headline is a bit of a misnomer. One of the great things about adult orthodontics are the many options available for your treatment. The word "braces" likely makes you think of a mouth full of metal, like the old days when braces were a twisted mess of brackets and wires. Today, many people can achieve their orthodontic goals without ever touching a metal bracket or wire. Even patients who opt for braces will find that the technology has come a long way since their friends had braces back in school.  

Here is a brief rundown of the many options you have for your orthodontic treatment:

Conventional Braces

This type is probably what you picture when we talk about orthodontics. Braces are fixed appliances, meaning they do not come out until removed. They use bands, wires, and brackets to apply forces to your teeth and move them into the proper position. Sometimes there are no bands, and the orthodontist bonds the brackets to the front of the teeth with dental adhesives. Connected to the brackets with bands or metal ties, the archwires move your teeth into the proper position throughout your treatment time. Braces are great for straightening teeth in complex cases. 

Aligners

You may have seen commercials or social media campaigns for clear aligners. These removable appliances are a clear plastic tray that you wear in your mouth when you are not eating or drinking. The aligners are designed by software to move your teeth in a progressive series of trays that you switch out every couple of weeks. One of the best things about clear aligners is that you can see your natural tooth through the tray and many people are not even aware you are wearing them.

Self-Ligating Braces

These braces are very similar to conventional braces. The difference is that instead of using ties or bands to connect the wires to the brackets, the braces have brackets or clips that hold the wires into place. The brackets can be active, meaning they always apply force, or passive, where the brackets do not use force. Like traditional braces, they require periodic adjustments.[3]

Lingual Braces

Lingual braces go on the backside of your teeth, what we call the lingual side (or tongue-side). They use the same equipment as conventional braces but not the same way. No one will see the braces because they are on the tongue side of the teeth. These braces are better for minor bite issues and crowding than complicated cases. Plus, they are more suitable for adults than children because the teeth need to be longer for the system to work.[4]

Cons of Adult Braces

Like anything, there are pros and cons to getting braces as an adult. We've looked at the pros of adult orthodontic treatment, so let's take a closer look at the cons and other concerns with braces in adults. 

When you are getting braces as an adult, your parents are not footing the bill anymore. The good news is that there is not an additional cost of braces for adults. The bad news is that you are paying for it, and if you don't have insurance that covers part of adult orthodontics, you are paying for all of it.

So, how much are braces for adults? Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast answer to this question. What you pay depends on several factors, including the severity of your orthodontic needs, the type of treatment you choose, and whether you need any additional tools or procedures to get the desired adult braces before and after results. 

There are a few ranges to consider. The American Dental Association (ADA) estimates that the average cost of adult braces is between $4,800 to $7,135.[5] Harvard Health Publishing gives a $5,000 to $7,500 range.[6]   Healthline.com gives an estimate of $5,000 to $6,000 for adult braces per a sizeable dental insurance provider. 

However, depending on the treatment modality you choose, it could be a broader range of costs. For example, Invisalign, a clear aligner company, estimates that treatment for adult orthodontics is around $3,000 to $8,000.[7]

Finding Dental Insurance That Covers Adults

Dental insurance with an orthodontic benefit can help reduce the cost of adult orthodontics. However, orthodontic benefits are not part of every policy, and usually, when they are part of the policy, they are for teens. In other words, finding insurance coverage for adult braces might take some research.

Dental insurance policies are offered in two ways. First, there are employer-sponsored dental plans, which you can sign up for at work. Next, there are individual plans that you purchase directly from the dental insurance provider. Your company determines the benefits offered of your employer-sponsored plan, so you are limited to what they negotiate regarding adult braces coverage and benefits. Also, there are often limitations to coverage, usually around $1,000 to $1,500 for a lifetime benefit per member and 6- to 12-month waiting periods before benefits are available.

Unlike employer plans, you can choose the benefits on individual plans that you buy yourself. For example, Colgate.com names a plan from Delta Dental, DeltaCare USA PAA48, one of the largest nationwide dental insurance suppliers, that can reduce the cost of adult braces. However, it is essential to note that individual plan benefits and premiums vary by state and other factors, like age and gender, so be prepared to do some comparison shopping before committing. Also, like employer-sponsored dental insurance policies, there are coverage limits and waiting periods involved.[i]

Do Braces Hurt More for Adults?

The short answer to this question is no; braces are not more uncomfortable as an adult. However, braces are uncomfortable when you first get them or when you have an adjustment.

A good analogy is new shoes. If you get a new pair of shoes, they might be uncomfortable when you first wear them. After you break the shoes in, though, they get more comfortable. The same applies to your braces.

How Long Do Adults Need to Wear Braces?

Unfortunately, it isn't possible to straighten your teeth overnight. But, in many cases, it also doesn't mean wearing braces for years and years to get results. Under the care of your orthodontist, adult braces (and clear aligners) will move your teeth into place over time, depending upon your case and treatment plan.

So, you may be asking, how long do adults wear braces? The answer depends on what treatment you need to get the results you want. Estimates suggest that mild orthodontic cases take as little as 12 months while others take three years.[9] Per one study, researchers determined that the average length of time for treatment for patients in a fixed appliance (which means braces) is 24.9 months.[10]   And, yes, in some cases, orthodontic treatment can take longer than three years. 

The type of appliance used can also affect the time it takes for treatment. For example, one of the contributing factors to the efficiency of clear aligner treatment is patient compliance with the trays, meaning wearing them and progressing through the trays as directed. However, as one orthodontist points out, most adults are more motivated about doing what the orthodontist ordered, which makes clear aligner treatment times more predictable than they might be with a teenager.[11]

You won't have to guess how long you will be in treatment. Your Smile Generation orthodontist will estimate your treatment time after your consultation and once you choose the type of orthodontic treatment you want. 

Managing Adult Braces Treatment?

Before starting orthodontic treatment, we need to ensure that the supporting tissues, the bones and gums, are healthy enough for treatment. Unfortunately, as adults, the health of these tissues can decline. One of the leading culprits for this health decline is bacteria.

You might know that bacteria cause tooth decay, but did you know it's also the cause of gum disease? Among other symptoms, gum disease can lead to the loss of your gum tissue and the breakdown of the teeth's supporting bone. If your gums are not healthy and there isn't enough bone around the roots of your teeth, we cannot move them into the proper position. 

Gum disease is much more prevalent in adults than it is in kids. One of the things your Smile Generation Orthodontist will assess is your gum health at the initial consultation. The presence of gum disease doesn't mean you can't have orthodontic treatment; it just means that we need to treat it first before starting.[12]

In addition to checking for gum disease, your Smile Generation orthodontist will also take a complete medical history before starting orthodontic care. One of the doctor's concerns is whether you have low bone density and whether you are on medication to treat that condition.[13]

How is Adult Orthodontic Treatment Different From Treatment for Teens?

The ADA estimates that many orthodontic patients are from 8 to 14 years old.[14] Orthodontists recommend taking children for a consultation by seven years old to determine whether orthodontic intervention is necessary early. That's because young people's bones are still growing, making it easier to get teeth into the proper position and adjust bites with orthodontic appliances rather than surgery. 

One of the most significant differences between adult orthodontics versus early childhood and teen orthodontics is that your bones are grown. This fact affects adult braces in a couple of ways. It could mean something that might have been corrected without surgery as a child needs surgery as an adult. With surgery in the mix, it could mean that your treatment time takes a little longer from start to finish than it would for a younger patient.[15]

Absent surgery, however, research indicates no difference in timelines for teens versus adults in treatment. It turns out that things that go faster in teens take longer in adults in one part of treatment and then switch to the opposite advantage in other parts of treatment. That means the aggregate time is about the same between the two groups. As the European Journal of Orthodontics puts it, "age does not seem to be playing a role [in treatment duration] provided the patients are in the permanent dentition.[16]

The most important thing you should know about adult orthodontics is that you are never too old to get the smile you want. The benefits of having a straighter smile and an improved bite are good for you if you are 14 or 45. Plus, the improvements in adult orthodontics treatment have made it better than ever for patients to get the treatment they need.

Find an Orthodontist Near Me

Still have questions about adult orthodontics or braces for adults or need more information about the pros and cons of getting braces as an adult? Use our Find a Dentist tool to find a Smile Generation orthodontist near you to schedule your free consultation? Not only can you get your questions answered about braces options for adults or problems with braces in adults, but your orthodontist will also be able to tell you what they anticipate is necessary for your particular case.

 

Sources

[1] "7 Myths about Orthodontic Treatment." www.aaoinfo.org. 1 October 2017. Web. 16 March 2022. https://www.aaoinfo.org/blog/7-myths-about-orthodontic-treatment/

[2] "Braces Myths Debunked." www.orthodonticsaustralia.org.au. Web. 16 March 2020. https://www.google.com/amp/s/orthodonticsaustralia.org.au/braces-myths-debunked/amp/

[3] Seladi-Schulman, Jill. "What are Self-Ligating Braces?" www.healthline.com. 1 March 2021. Web. 15 March 2022. < https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/self-ligating-braces>. 

[4] Wiley, Carol. "What Are Lingual Braces?" colgate.com. Web. 17 March 2022. <https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/cosmetic-dentistry/adult-orthodontics/what-are-lingual-braces-0414>. 

[5] Hunt, Janet. "Average Cost of Braces from the ADA." Thebalance.com. 25 June 2019. Web. 24 September 2019. < https://www.thebalance.com/average-cost-of-braces-4582464>. 

[6] "Are you too old for braces?" health.harvard.edu. Web. 24 September 2019. < https://www.health.harvard.edu/oral-health/are-you-too-old-for-braces>. 

[7] Connor, Elizabeth. "Braces in Adults." Healthline.com. 2 May 2017. Web. 15 March 2022. < https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-health/adult-braces>. 

[8] "How to Find Dental Insurance That Covers Braces for Adults." www.colgate.com. Web. 15 March 2022. < https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/adult-oral-care/how-to-find-dental-insurance-that-covers-braces-for-adults>.

[9] Silver, Natalie. "How Long Do Braces Take?" healthline.com. 11 January 2021. Web. 15 March 2022. <https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-do-braces-take#average-duration>.  

[10] Abbing, A., Koretsi, V., Eliades, T. et al. Duration of orthodontic treatment with fixed appliances in adolescents and adults: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Prog Orthod. 21, 37 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40510-020-00334-4

[11] Connor, Elizabeth. "Braces in Adults." Healthline.com. 2 May 2017. Web. 15 March 2022. < https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-health/adult-braces>. 

[12] Ellis, Rachel Reiff. "Straight Talk About Braces for Adults." Webmd.com. 15 December 2015. Web. 15 March 2022. < https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/straight-talk-about-braces-for-adults#1>. 

[13] Connor, Elizabeth. "Braces in Adults." Healthline.com. 2 May 2017. Web. 15 March 2022. < https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-health/adult-braces>.

[14]  "Braces." Mouthhealthy.org. Web. 24 September 2019. < https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/braces>. 

[15] Abbing, A., Koretsi, V., Eliades, T. et al. Duration of orthodontic treatment with fixed appliances in adolescents and adults: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Prog Orthod. 21, 37 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40510-020-00334-4

[16] Dimitrios Mavreas, Athanasios E. Athanasiou, Factors affecting the duration of orthodontic treatment: a systematic review, European Journal of Orthodontics, Volume 30, Issue 4, August 2008, Pages 386–395, https://doi.org/10.1093/ejo/cjn018