With recent improvements in orthodontics, more and more adults are seeking treatment for oral problems they’ve been dealing with since childhood. There are significant differences between orthodontic treatment for adults and that of children and teens; however, it’s worth knowing what they are before making a decision to seek treatment.
Here are the fundamental differences between orthodontic treatment for adults and for younger patients.
Bite Correction Issues: One of the primary reasons that patients require orthodontic treatment is to correct an improper bite. In an adult patient who has a deep overbite, there is often not enough room in the mouth to create space for the teeth to return to the proper position without extracting one or more teeth.
By the time they reach adulthood, a patient might also have worn down some teeth, which can worsen the overbite. Orthodontists refer to these problems as perio-restorative issues, and typically focus on making the adult patient’s bite more functional than perfect.
Placement of Appliances: Many orthodontic appliances are bonded to the patient’s teeth using dental cement, particularly for less visible options such as lingual braces. This makes it vital that the patient practice strict oral hygiene during the process to help prevent decalcification.
Age: Adult patients often experience issues that younger patients don’t, such as insufficient bone between the roots for adequate blood supply, mild gingivitis and some bone loss. The bones are also harder and no longer growing and the aging of tissue often causes them to take longer to adjust to the patient’s teeth’s new positions. This can make tooth realignment a more involved process in adults than in younger patients.
Tooth Extraction Problems: Many adult patients have previously had one or more teeth extracted, and this can present a problem for the orthodontist. Prior extraction sites may not be appropriate locations for teeth to move into, unless they are restored by adding sections of prosthetic bone to the area. Closing gaps between the teeth caused by extractions – and keeping them closed – is also challenging, because adult bone doesn’t respond to pressure in the same way as growing bone.
Psychosocial Factors: With orthodontic treatment for adults, there are a number of psychological and social factors that affect treatment. These include higher elevated levels of:
- Treatment expectations;
- Concern with appearance;
- Discomfort from wearing appliances;
- Willingness to cooperate with orthodontic instructions.
Adult patients typically want the best results in the shortest amount of time and with the lowest level of discomfort or inconvenience. They also want more information regarding what the orthodontist is doing and why, and may look for more information regarding the cost breakdown of each portion of treatment.
Vulnerabilities: Older patients undergoing adult orthodontics treatment have a higher risk for root resorption than children. This occurs when your body reabsorbs the root of a tooth, leaving the tooth without a place to anchor. Factors that play a role in this include family history, oral habits and the type of roots the tooth has.
If you are vulnerable to root resorption and the treatment causes friction that has an effect on your roots, the teeth may simply become loose and fall out over time. By monitoring your teeth closely, the orthodontist can watch for signs of resorption; but if not caught early, it’s generally untreatable.
With older people now making up to 50 percent of patients, some practices are focusing their attention on the specifics of orthodontic treatment for adults. If you are considering any corrective treatment, call our office today to schedule a consultation and we’ll discuss the issues that may affect you.