Adult orthodontics is becoming increasingly popular. Nationwide, about 20% of orthodontic patients are adults. This statistic holds true for our practice as well. We absolutely love our adult patients because: 1) we get to have adult conversations with them, and 2) they are generally very excited and more appreciative for their treatment.
Here are a few differences between adult treatment and adolescent treatment:
Adults are not growing; therefore, certain elements of treatment are limited. For example, if a child has significant overjet (horizontal overbite), we modify growth to correct the overbite as in the pictures shown. With adults, sometimes removing teeth (extractions) or jaw surgery is required to correct horizontal overlap (or overjet) fully. If the patient prefers to leave the overlap and just straighten his or her teeth, that is also an option.
2. Response of periodontal tissues (gums and bone)
Adult gums and bone respond differently from they way the do in adolescents. Adult periodontal tissues cannot be stressed as much or they may begin to dissolve or recede.
3. Jaw development (expansion)
If kids’ jaws are too narrow, we can use an expander to widen the jaws significantly and broaden the smile. Adults’ bones are fused together and don't allow for the same amount of manipulation. We can still broaden the arches with some archwire expansion, but there are more limitations.
The gums and bones of adults are more stable or stubborn, so teeth usually move at a slower pace. Teeth move when certain cells eat away bone and other cells deposit bone. In adolescents, this process is constantly happening while they are growing, so teeth respond more quickly. In adults, initiating this process takes longer and the cells that change the bone tend to work more slowly.
Adult treatment generally is a little more uncomfortable than adolescent treatment. Instead of initial soreness for two or three days, adults may experience soreness for about a week as the teeth begin to move. Like adolescents, however, once the teeth are moving along, the discomfort subsides.
Teeth are like anything else on our bodies; as we get older, they tend to change. Most people’s bottom teeth especially will tend to crowd. Wearing a retainer is an important part of keeping anyone’s teeth straight. Because adult teeth are more stubborn, they are more prone to relapse (moving back), so wearing a retainer after treatment is even more important for adults.
We use several different types of retainers depending on your needs. Dr. Taylor and Dr. Mortensen will discuss the pros and cons of different retainers toward the end of your treatment.