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You’re Never Too Old for Braces

Some adults are too embarrassed to wear braces.

CHICAGO -- Even though the concept of wearing braces has dissipated among kids, adults still harbor fears about donning corrective dental appliances and becoming "metal mouths," say two researchers.

Adults avoid orthodonstists because of embarrassment about wearing some orthodontic appliances, including braces, according to researchers Thomas Buttke, Ph.D., and William Proffit, D.D.S., Ph.D., University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, Chapel Hill. The pair coauthored an article that appeared in an issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Additional reasons given by adults include not knowing that they can benefit from orthodontic treatment, possible discomfort, length of treatment, and cost. Causes of malocclusions, an orthodontic problem, include crowded, crooked or missing teeth or jaw misalignment.

"Recent studies have shown that the frequency of malocclusion in adults is quite similar to or greater than that observed in children," explained Drs. Buttke and Proffit. "Yet, adults make up only 15 percent of all orthodontic patients."

U.S. adults frequently exhibit significant crowding and misalignment of upper and lower incisors, overbites, crossbites, underbites and spaces between upper teeth, they said.

However, despite the common perception that orthodontic treatment takes longer in adults, Drs. Buttke and Proffit say studies often show no difference in the duration of treatment for adults compared with adolescents.

"Therefore," the authors said, "many adult dental patients might benefit from the same type of orthodontic treatment commonly provided to younger patients."

They also said: "Recent advances in orthodontic appliance design have increased patient acceptance because they are much smaller and less esthetically objectionable than the appliances of even a decade ago."

Drs. Buttke and Proffit concluded that many adults possess a dental malocclusion that is correctable through orthodontic treatment and that it is no longer unusual to encounter an adult wearing orthodontic appliances.

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