When I was a young dental student visiting the US, I was surprised to see an older adult (late 50s at the very least) wearing braces. But nowadays, it wouldn’t be surprising at all. In fact, in my practice, adults represent nearly half of my patients, and this is true for most orthodontists these days.
So why the growing interest in adult braces? Well, if you think about it, it’s the perfect time. As an adult, you’re finally independent, (hopefully) financially stable, and much more responsible than a teen.
Maybe you’ve had braces as a child and stopped wearing your retainer, or maybe you’ve never had braces at all (in which case, ‘brace’ yourself for this entirely new experience).
Either way, it’s not a big deal, not any more. With straight teeth becoming the norm, no one will bat an eye if you decide to get braces as an adult. Think you’re too old? That’s for your orthodontist to decide, but if you still have your teeth and decent bone around them, braces will always be an option.
When Do You Need Braces as an Adult?
The vast majority of adults seek braces for cosmetic reasons. People want to look good, and it’s understandable. But did you know that most adults seeking orthodontic treatment have bite issues they don’t even know about? So rest assured, you’re not being vain – braces will fix a whole lot more than just your crowded teeth.
There’s a difference between want and need, but with braces, you’ll take care of both. Here are some of the things you may be fixing in the process:
As you can see, getting braces as an adult is a bit more complicated, since you might need a team of dental professionals (dentist, periodontist, prosthodontist) to collaborate on your case. But that just means you’ll be getting the best possible care.
Best Adult Braces: Our Selection
Now let’s dive into the type of braces that are best fit for an adult’s unique needs. Your requirements will most likely include esthetics, price and effectiveness, and it’s all covered below.
1. Ceramic Braces
Most adults need or prefer a discreet option when it comes to braces. For this reason, my top recommendation for adult brace is ceramic. You can choose between traditional ceramic braces or self-ligating ceramic braces.
If you have the extra budget and your orthodontist uses them as part of their practice, I’d go with self-ligating ceramic brackets. Damon is a particularly popular brand. They may be bulkier and more expensive than their traditional counterparts, but the biggest advantage is that they don’t stain as bad.
The rubber ligatures (bands) around classic braces tend to stain within weeks, which can make your beautiful ceramic braces look yellow.
Another drawback of ceramic braces is effectiveness. They will most likely slow treatment down by a few months compared to metal braces. Ceramic brackets will still be faster than clear aligners, though, and I still chose them as my #1 option for adults because esthetics plays a huge role.
2. Self-Ligating Metal Braces
Self-ligating metal braces are a favorite of most orthodontists these days. They are smaller, more discreet, and many practitioners claim that they’re more effective than conventional fixed brackets.
What sets them apart from traditional braces is a smart clip that holds the wire in, so no more need for colored bands. While colored braces are a reason for excitement for kids, most adults don’t want to stand out, which makes SL braces perfect for the job.
Self-ligating braces are still metallic and look like classic braces, but they have the added benefit of being more hygienic and slightly faster in the alignment stage.
3. Clear Aligners
Clear aligners made it to the top #3 list, but they’re not my top choice because of their current limitations. Clear aligners aren’t well suited for complex cases (unless they’re used by very skilled orthodontist), and for that reason, they’re slower and less effective.
This is why fixed braces are still the gold standard of treatment for most adults, but that’s starting to change.
Clear aligners are removable, which makes them convenient, and nearly invisible – you can only see them up-close. Expect getting a lisp at first, but other than that, they seem to be the most comfortable braces.
4. Lingual Braces
Lingual braces are the only type of truly invisible braces. They’re are attached to the back of your teeth, facing your tongue, rather than the front. For this reason, lingual braces take some getting used to, but they’re far slimmer and low-profile than they used to be.
Lingual braces aren’t as popular in the US as they are in Europe, and they do need some training. It might be harder to find a specialist in the US, but it’s worth looking for one if the “invisibility” feature is important to you.
5. Partial braces
Partial braces are a type of braces that are used to correct minor crookedness in the front teeth. Instead of putting brackets on every tooth, partial braces consist of brackets on the front four or six teeth. Back brackets on the molars are sometimes used to anchor the wire in order to pull the front few teeth in line.
While I don’t recommend using partial braces, especially when there are other bite problems to correct, it would be unrealistic to assume that people won’t still use them. And to be fair, if you’ve been living with the same bite your entire life and just want one crooked tooth fixed, partial braces are an acceptable option.
Just make sure your orthodontist has enough room to straighten overlapping teeth, or enough clearance to close gaps. Braces are more complicated than they seem.
Can Adults Get Metal Braces?
You can absolutely get traditional braces as an adult. While they’re often associated with teenage years, adults can also benefit from metal braces to correct all kinds of orthodontic issues. Yes, they may look old school, but they’re the most affordable braces.
You can have fun with colors, or just stick with grey ligatures to keep your braces less noticeable, either way, rest assured traditional metal braces are the most effective and budget-friendly type.
Which Are the Fastest Braces for Adults?
If only we had braces that moved teeth 3X faster than conventional orthodontic treatment, and can be done by your own dentist. Enter: FASTBRACES®! If all this sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is.
Aside from partial braces, which are an obvious compromise, there’s no such thing as “fast braces”. Moving teeth simply takes time. So if you ever hear the term “6 months braces”, they most likely refer to braces that only go on the front teeth and are limited to cosmetic correction.
Can You Only Fix Top / Bottom Teeth?
You may have seen people wearing braces or aligners on just their top teeth, or just their bottom teeth. Is that even an option?
The short answer is: only in certain patients. While some practitioners do this, it’s not ethical to correct just one arch if the patient has bite issues such as improper overjet, overbite, etc.
Single-arch treatment is only recommended for people who have healthy bites and only minor crowding or rotations in their teeth. In such cases, single arch aligners or braces can be used to correct minimal crowding in about 6 to 10 months.
If you’re interested, I have 2 in-depth articles covering both types of treatment: