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Are You Too Old For Braces?

Sandy TANG, Orthodontist

Many older people did not get braces when they were young. Either their parents could not bring them to the orthodontist’s or their teeth could not be straightened with the limited techniques of 30-40 years ago. As a result, problems with teeth and gums are common among that generation. Teeth are worn down and many people, perhaps even you, are unhappy with their smile. But now there is much better technology and braces are affordable, and you are thinking you want to do something about it. The first question you might ask is, “Am I too old for braces?”

There is no age limit for orthodontic treatment

The answer is “no” you are not too old. There are no age limits for getting braces! Orthodontic treatment can easily be done for those in the latter years, and is a growing trend. In fact, nearly a quarter of orthodontic treatment is presently done on adult patients. It is quite a change from 20 years ago when only children were wearing braces.

The condition of your teeth, gums and supporting bones is the most important factor in determining your potential for orthodontic treatment. The biological processes involved in tooth movement are the same for both adults and children.

Benefit of adult orthodontics

When your teeth are crooked, they are harder to clean and can unevenly wear down. Your gums can inflame causing tooth pain; eventually, you can lose your teeth. Orthodontic treatment inhibits gum problems and prevents tooth loss.

It is important to know that chewing is the first step of digestion. If you do not chew your food properly, the rest of you digestive system will have to work harder. The harder you digestive system works, the faster it ages. As a result, orthodontic treatment will prevent premature aging of your digestive system.

In addition, today’s society strongly emphasizes appearance. A perfect smile can even help in your career. Surveys have indicated that people who have had braces feel better about themselves. With better self-esteem, individuals that have undergone orthodontic work live longer and statistically have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Modern techniques make adult orthodontics more comfortable

Modern orthodontic practices have evolved considerably over the last 40 years. Back then, traditional one-size-fits-all brackets and stainless steel wires were the standard of care. The most radical changes in the orthodontic industry are the use of nickel titanium arch wires and self-ligation brackets. These new arch wires have a unique memory effect and super elasticity. They can generate light, continuous force during tooth movement, which will shorten treatment time and largely reduce patient discomfort. The new passive self-ligating brackets use a slide mechanism that allows the wire inside to glide. This mechanism not only reduces friction and pressure, but also results in more effective forces that make treatment more comfortable.

The difference between adult and childhood orthodontics

The reason it is easier for a child or teenager to undergo orthodontic treatment is due to the fact the bones in their jaws are still growing and have not yet set. The unbalanced growth of the upper and lower jaws can be corrected in a child through growth modification. Since there is no growth potential for the adult bone, jaw discrepancies need to be corrected with surgery.

Another major difference between adolescent and adult orthodontics is that the procedures take longer to complete. The adult bone, muscle and soft tissue around the teeth need more time to heal as they adjust to the changes. After all, the jaw is more than just bones; it is composed of muscles too. Therefore, going slowly allows the muscles to adapt.

There are several other notable advantages of adult orthodontics. For instance, following an orthodontist’s treatment plan is easier as there are more options unavailable to younger patients. Children often wear braces only because their parents want them to, and they may not always follow the doctor’s instructions. Conversely, adults are more motivated and are typically better listeners. Adults are rewarded with revolutionary treatment options including lingual and clear braces. If you are interested in finding out more about what treatment plans are available for you, please schedule a preliminary consultation with an orthodontist.


  1. Dinesh, K Bagga. “Adult Orthodonticsversus Adolescent Orthodontics: An Overview.” J Oral Health Com Dent. 2010; 4(2):42-47.
  2. Proffit, William R., Contemporary Orthodontics (Fourth Edition).
  3. Scott P, Fleming P, Dibiase A. “AnUpdate in Adult Orthodontics.” Dental Update. Sep2007; 34(7): 427-8, 431-4, 436.

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