Dental braces: facts and benefits

Teenage boy with dental braces sitting in park

For decades, dental braces have helped patients develop healthy smiles. Over 4 million people in the U.S. wear braces, and 25% of these individuals are adults.1 If you have a misaligned jaw or out-of-place teeth, be sure to ask your dentist if braces are right for you. Crooked teeth can put extra pressure on certain parts of your mouth and lead to serious complications later on in life.2 Although braces may seem intimidating, listen to your dentist if he or she recommends you see an orthodontist. Dental braces can be painless and are often a permanent solution for fixing your teeth. Correcting crooked teeth will help boost your self-confidence and give you the healthy smile you’ve always wanted.

What are dental braces?

Dental braces have brackets that run along a wire and affix to your teeth. Together, the brackets and wire press against your teeth to move them slightly so that they will become straight and properly aligned. They are usually used to help close gaps or correct crooked teeth.

Today’s braces are made out of many different materials, making them less noticeable than ever before. Teenagers and young adults sometimes enjoy getting braces made in several different colors. Although these braces are more noticeable, individuals can choose colors that express their unique personalities and styles. Other people prefer clear braces that are virtually invisible. Either way, contemporary braces are usually made out of ceramic brackets and wires rather than metal.

How much do braces cost?

The price of braces varies, depending on whether you have dental insurance and also depending upon the type of treatment your orthodontist recommends. The average American spends about $5,000 on braces, presuming he or she doesn't have dental insurance.3 This price is just for the braces themselves and doesn't include visits to the orthodontist, X-rays and other diagnostic tests.4

Many orthodontists offer a free initial consultation, which gives you the opportunity to determine whether you're comfortable with the orthodontist and would like to proceed. If you want to use dental insurance to cover some of the cost of braces, you should sign up for insurance before getting the braces put on, as they may not be covered if you begin treatment prior to getting insurance.

Braces for adults

Braces are often associated with childhood, and there’s a misconception that it is easier to correct crooked teeth in children than it is in adults. However, it's never too late to get treatment for problems with crooked teeth or misaligned jaws.5

Braces for adults are similar to braces for children, but it often takes longer for adults to correct tooth and jaw problems than it does for children. Adults can expect to wear braces for 3 or 4 years, while children usually have them for 2 years.5

In some cases, your primary dentist can take care of orthodontic problems for you so that you don't have to see a specialist. This is usually true for adults who only have minor problems they would like to fix. But for any complex oral issues, you'll probably have to see a specialist. Orthodontists usually charge about the same to see adults as they do to see children.

Some adults are reluctant to get braces because they think they are too old to be wearing them and don't want other people to notice. If that's the case, consider spending a little extra to get clear braces that are virtually invisible.

Benefits of braces

Braces can correct a wide variety of problems. Most commonly, they're used to straighten teeth that have grown in crooked or to realign the jaw.6 Braces can also remedy overcrowding, a problem that occurs when the teeth are spaced too closely together.7 This is a concern because teeth that are too close together are harder to brush and floss, so you’re at a higher risk for gum disease and tooth decay.8 Orthodontists can correct overcrowding by putting spacers in between the teeth.9

Wearing braces can also help correct the way patients bite. If the teeth or jaws aren't aligned properly, you may have a hard time biting and chewing your food.10 This can cause the teeth to wear out very quickly. If this problem isn't corrected, sometimes the patient will lose his or her teeth later in life.11 In addition, problems with biting can tire out jaw muscles and cause pain while eating.12 In some cases, misalignment can cause a "bucktooth" appearance.13 This condition makes the patient more likely to suffer injuries to his or her front teeth, especially if the individual plays sports.14

Finally, wearing braces can help give you more self-confidence. It can be embarrassing to smile when your teeth are crooked. And some overbites are so severe that it's difficult to chew with your mouth closed. These oral complications can make it more difficult to socialize. Once your smile is corrected, you may find it easier to be yourself and interact in more social situations.

Braces can be critical to the future of your oral health.15 The younger you are, the easier it is to correct dental problems. So if your children are showing signs of crooked teeth, schedule an appointment with your dentist soon. Adults should also talk to their dentist about the possibility of getting braces if they have problems with biting and chewing or if their teeth are crooked. Don’t let any of these oral issues stand in the way of a confident smile.

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Sources:

  1. “Braces for Adults,” Dentalassociates.com, last accessed September 4, 2019, https://www.dentalassociates.com/our-services/braces-orthodontics/braces-adults, opens new window.
  2. “Braces,” Medicinenet.com, last accessed September 4, 2019, https://www.medicinenet.com/dental_braces/article.htm, opens new window.
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  14. “Are You Too Old for Braces?,” Harvard Health Publishing, last accessed September 4, 2019, http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/HB_web/are-you-too-old-for-braces.htm, opens new window.
  15. “Are You Too Old for Braces?”

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