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How to Get Your Adult Teeth to Straighten Up and Act Their Age

How to Get Your Adult Teeth to Straighten Up and Act Their Age

Think braces are just for angsty teens and awkward pre-pubescents? Think again. In 2012, the New York Times reported that the number of adults undergoing treatment for crooked teeth using braces or other teeth straightening treatment had gone up 58% from 1994 to 2010.

Sure, crooked teeth can be a cosmetic embarrassment, but more importantly, correcting them can benefit you more than just making you look better. For example, fixing a less-than-perfect bite will ensure that you chew your food properly.  And overlapping teeth can cause bacteria to get trapped, leading to difficulty with cleaning and, ultimately, tooth decay. Fortunately there are a number of ways to get teeth (of any age) on the straight and narrow.

Am I Doomed to Be a “Brace Face”?

The upside to waiting until adulthood to correct your teeth is you can avoid all those playground bullies and their hurtful name-calling. The other benefit is that trends are changing. After assessing your particular issues, your orthodontist can tell you more about all the options that are available to you today, including:

  • Visible braces. This type of brace is perhaps the closest to what you may envision when you think “braces.” But it’s pretty safe to say that even visible braces have improved over the years. Usually suggested to fix severe alignment problems, the brace is fixed directly onto the front of the tooth using either traditional stainless-steel brackets with metal wires, clear plastic brackets with metal wires, or ceramic brackets with metal wires. Braces must be kept clean, since food that gathers around the brackets or wires can lead to staining or decay.

  • Invisible braces. Invisible braces are called lingual braces and are placed on the back of the teeth. If you’re concerned about the aesthetics of having braces, these can be a great option. However, adjusting to this method can be a little tough. Often times lingual braces can cause you to speak with a lisp, and having the brackets sit between your teeth and the tongue can cause irritation.

  • Nearly invisible braces. This is actually a clear plastic tray that’s worn over the teeth. Every two weeks the trays are exchanged for new ones that are become closer and closer to the teeth’s ideal alignment. This method is popular because they are almost invisible to the naked eye, and can be easily removed for cleaning and eating. However, you have to be strict about wearing the trays, as anything less than 22 hours a day will result in a longer treatment time.

  • Retainers. Removable retainers are made from metal wires and acrylic formed to the shape of your mouth. They can be made for both the upper and lower arches of the mouth to brace and align teeth. Retainers like this are popular because they can be easily removed for special events or occasional relief, but they are prone to getting lost, so you have to make sure to keep track of them.

  • Porcelain veneers. Veneers are a cheaper and less time-consuming way to change the look of your teeth by simply covering up minor imperfections. As well as covering crooked teeth, they can mask chips, gaps and stains and -- once they are applied --  don’t need to be replaced for five to ten years.

Invisible braces

An Ounce of Prevention…

If you’re worried that teeth are moving or may become crooked in the future, there are some things you can do now to prevent it happening, or at least slow it down.

  • Regular brushing. Gingivitis can lead to crooked teeth, so you must brush thoroughly twice a day to prevent it. If left untreated, gingivitis can become periodontitis, which can cause the teeth to loosen and move around.

  • Floss once a day. Flossing helps to remove the bacteria that cause plaque, to strengthen gums and to protect against gingivitis.

  • Visit your dentist regularly. Visiting your dentist and having your teeth regularly cleaned will prevent against gingivitis. Plus, your dentist can advise you on any problems that might lead to crooked teeth.

  • Stop thumb-sucking. Though crooked teeth are often genetic and hard to avoid, stopping children from sucking thumbs and using pacifiers beyond the age of three will help to keep teeth in alignment.

So, instead of just hoping that your teeth decide to straighten on their own (which they won’t), put on your grown-up pants, and talk to your dentist. Because today, there are more options than ever for giving you the healthy, attractive smile you’ve always wanted.

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