Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Braces - Not just for kids

Imagine you need to paint a fence but the slats are crooked and leaning against each other.  You'd fix the fence before painting it, wouldn't you?  Of course!  It's easier to paint that way.  That's the concept behind dental braces.  Braces are meant to align the teeth so that they are straight, fit together properly, and can be more easily cleaned.  There are purely cosmetic reasons to straighten the teeth, to be sure.  However, for the patient who is older and has had problems for years cleaning his or her teeth because they are crooked, braces are more than just a way to achieve a beautiful smile.  They can help to correct a lifetime of difficulty in properly cleaning the teeth and resolve issues that lead to dental disease.

When teeth aren't cleaned well plaque is able to grow, multiply, and harden.  This can lead to cavities, gum disease, gum recession, and worse.  Recently, an adult patient (over 50) finally convinced of the benefits of getting braces, consulted with an orthodontist and started treatment.  After only 8 weeks he noticed an improvement in his oral health as well his attitude about his teeth.  Making the commitment to get braces had strengthened his resolve to floss his teeth and he was as amazed that his gums were no longer bleeding!  He was enthusiastic and optimistic about the future of his dental health.

About 20% of orthodontic patients are over the age of 18 and there are many types of braces for adults to choose from.  Products that use a series of plastic trays which are virtually invisible as well as ceramic braces have removed the "brace face" stigma and made wearing braces much more desirable.  Unfortunately, insurance does not cover adult braces and they can cost between $4,000 - $8,000 over the average 2 year treatment time.  However, if you weigh the expense of braces against future expense and time lost in the dental chair, the money may be worth it.

If you are an adult considering getting braces ask yourself the following questions and follow up by speaking with your dentist or dental hygienist:

Have my permanent teeth been crooked since I was a child/teenager?

Do I have a hard time brushing or flossing because my teeth are crooked?

Do I have areas where my gums bleed even though I brush and floss regularly?

Have I had cavities where my teeth are crooked?

Do my teeth feel like they don't "fit together" right?

Have I had tooth decay where I previously had fillings and now have crowns/caps?

Have I lost teeth?

Are my gums receding where my teeth are crooked?

Has my dentist or dental hygienist told me that my dental problems are related to my teeth being crooked?

Has my dentist or dental hygienist recommended that I consult with an orthodontist?

Do I like to smile?

Does my dental history include fillings or caps due to my crooked teeth?  Is there more work to be done in my future?

Does the cost of fillings (starting at $200 each,) caps/crowns (at around $1,000 and up each,) bridgework ($2,500 and up) as well as time lost in the dental chair outweigh the expense of braces?

Am I willing to change my home care habits to properly take care of braces?

Will I continue to properly care for my teeth after the braces come off?

This information is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition.  It you have any health concerns, please consult you medical or dental professional.

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