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Are You Ever Too Old For Braces?

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Whether you've always felt self-conscious about a crooked smile, or are just starting to notice that your teeth seem a little less straight than they may have previously been, you might be investigating your options for a straighter, brighter smile with someone like Randolph S. Moore DMD. However, the idea of a full mouth of metal braces (or even a less obtrusive retainer) could send you straight into flashbacks of middle school. Do you really need braces -- and if so, what are your options? Read on to learn more about the unique challenges and benefits of getting braces as an adult.

Why is it common to need braces as you age?

Although many adolescents end up wearing braces or a retainer for a brief period of time to help their teeth grow into the proper position, your teeth continue to shift as you age. In addition to this normal evolution, you may experience additional shifting after you have an impacted wisdom tooth removed and your molars expand to cover the area, or if you have an extraction, root canal, or crown -- all of which can cause your other teeth to move.

Over time, you might find that your once-straight smile has become a bit less so -- and even if you don't desire braces for cosmetic reasons, you may notice that it becomes more difficult to chew on one or both sides of your mouth, or that it feels like your teeth aren't connecting when you bite down. If this is the case, you could likely benefit from a retainer or orthodontic braces.

What type of orthodontic device is best for you?

Fortunately, recent advances in orthodontic technology mean that the heavy, silvery braces you may have seen in your classmates' mouths during junior high and high school are no longer your only option. Below are several choices that may carry specific benefits for those who are seeking orthodontic treatment as an adult.

  • Invisalign

This treatment has received the endorsement of several A-listers -- with both Katherine Heigl and Tom Cruise reportedly taking advantage of these discreet braces. Unlike traditional metal braces that attach to the surface of your teeth and are connected with stainless steel wires, Invisalign braces are created from clear plastic and designed to fit over your teeth -- like a sports mouth guard -- to guide them into the proper position. 

The extent of your Invisalign treatment will depend upon the degree to which you wish to change your smile. In some minor cases, you may only ever need the initial Invisalign tray. In other cases, you may need several different trays during the course of treatment as your teeth begin to adjust their positions and the previous Invisalign tray becomes uncomfortable.

One of the biggest advantages to Invisalign braces is the ability to remove them at will. Although Invisalign braces are thin and clear enough that they are essentially invisible to the naked eye, you may not want to wear them during an important work presentation or a date. Some individuals have opted to wear their Invisalign braces only at night, ensuring that no one they encounter in their daily lives are ever aware that they are receiving orthodontic treatment.

  • Orthodontic retainer

Another viable option is that of an orthodontic retainer or night mouth guard. These devices are usually composed of metal and plastic, and are molded to your mouth to help provide comfort while guiding your teeth. 

Like Invisalign braces that are worn only at night, this treatment may take longer than other types of braces due to the intermittent exposure -- however, over time, your teeth will begin to gravitate toward a more natural position. 

  • Permanent retainer

Finally, you may opt for the installation of a permanent retainer. This retainer is made of surgical steel and generally goes behind your teeth so that it is invisible to everyone but your dentist. As long as this retainer remains in your mouth, your teeth should be unable to shift (even if you have other teeth removed) -- making it a good option for those who have tried other orthodontic treatments but still struggled with moving or shifting teeth.