Braces have long been a kind of geeky rite of passage, something that must be endured for a few years to ensure a lifelong smile with straight teeth.
Fortunately, braces have evolved over the years. They've become smaller and more modern, and less visible options are available for those who need them. New developments in orthodontic procedures are leading to an increase in adult patients.
Not only for geeky teens
Straightening teeth is not just for kids and teens. The South African Society of Orthodontics says that orthodontic procedures are not restricted to kids and teenagers, but can be done on anyone at any age.
While the South African statistics could not be found at the time of publishing, The American Association of Orthodontics said one out of five orthodontic patients is over age 21.
The average time a person needs to wear braces is two years, but the
time can be longer or shorter depending on the individual. Retainers are
worn nightly after a person no longer has braces. The retainer helps
maintain tooth position so that the bone in the tooth can solidify in
the new position, according to the FDA.
Braces aren't just for cosmetic purposes. According to the South African Society of Orthodontics, poorly arranged teeth are more susceptible to breaking and it's easier for food particles to get trapped, thus making it harder to clean teeth.
Your dentist or orthodontist will determine what type of braces are best for you. There are different options available:
- Metal braces move teeth by applying pressure and typically consist of small brackets cemented to the teeth, connected by a wire and held to the brackets by rubber bands. The wire is regularly tightened to gradually shift your teeth and jaw. These types of braces may be clear- or tooth-coloured to make them less obvious. Some people like to personalise the look of their braces with coloured rubber bands. A big drawback to metal braces is that it's easy for food to get stuck in them. Dental care and regular, careful brushing is very important to maintain good oral hygiene.
- So-called invisible braces, or aligners, are made of clear plastic material and worn over your teeth to straighten them. You'll wear each custom-made aligner for a few weeks, and then get a new one for the next stage of your treatment. This approach gradually moves teeth into the correct position. Aligners are removable and need to be taken out before you eat, brush and floss. It is much easier to maintain good dental hygiene with aligners than with metal braces.
Brackets hardly have to show
Teeth may soon repair themselves without fillings