Braces…at My Age? 5 Reasons to Say Yes to Senior Orthodontics

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“I’d encourage every adult to not let age stand in the way of getting the smile they really want.”—Fred A.

Teeth can be moved safely at any age, as long as there is no active periodontal disease present. Yet, sadly, many older adults and their dentists fail to even consider orthodontics as a viable option, thinking it’s a younger person’s game. Consequently, a large segment of the population is being underserved, suffering needlessly in silence. Maybe you’re among that group. Maybe you’ve been secretly longing you could do something about your crowding, spacing, bite, or TMJ problems. But you’ve felt hopeless, thinking the time to make any improvements has passed. Or perhaps you’ve been fortunate enough to have had good teeth all along or had braces previously, but suddenly you’ve noticed that things are starting to change and you’re concerned about what will happen if that trend progresses. If so, read on to see why orthodontics for seniors—and we don’t mean seniors in high school—is worth investigating.

1. Americans are living longer now. The average life expectancy in the US is now age 79.* That means you could expect to be around for nearly three decades beyond your 50th birthday. That’s a long time to walk around with a smile or a bite you’re not happy with. You’ll want to hold on to your natural teeth for the duration—unless dealing with decayed and missing teeth, expensive crowns and implants, or a mouthful of dentures for the next few decades sounds appealing to you! Investing, on average, a year or two in orthodontic care doesn’t seem impractical when you consider how many years you may still have ahead of you. And you’ll be part of a growing trend; we are seeing more and more adult patients at Orthodontic Arts, and the over-50 set accounts for an increasing part of that group.

2. Many seniors are preparing for new beginnings. Retirement doesn’t look like it used to. Today’s seniors aren’t typically sitting quietly at home in their rocking chairs. They’re starting new businesses, engaging in community outreach, pursuing new sports, hobbies, and adventures. And their dating and social lives can be more active than that of the average teen! You’ll want to enhance all that interaction with a healthy, attractive smile—because there’s still plenty to smile about! Remember, people enjoy being around confident, happy people, and the self-confidence that a great smile brings is valuable no matter one’s age.

3. Orthodontics can promote health and prevent problems. Orthodontics is about a lot more than just aesthetics; it’s also about proper function and maintenance. For example, orthodontic treatment can:
A) Improve efficiency. Chewing efficiency can be significantly diminished when the teeth don’t fit together the way they were meant to, such as in cases of open bite or excessive overjet (protrusion). Not being able to eat what you want can be very frustrating—just ask anyone on a diet!
B) Correct alignment for better oral hygiene. Crooked teeth are simply harder to keep clean. If you can’t clean them properly, they’re likely to decay and be lost, requiring costly repairs or replacements.
C) Fix your bite to avoid tooth wear. The bite tends to deepen as we mature, and a deep bite can contribute to tooth wear. Once the enamel is worn down, it doesn’t grow back. Then you may need to restore tooth length with veneers or crowns.
D) Combat negative changes. Teeth can shift over time. When they do, they need attention just like any other part of your body would. You wouldn’t say, “I’m too old to correct my vision.” So why would you feel you’re too old to fix your teeth?
E) Avoid/limit future problems. Being proactive about your orthodontic care can help you avoid even bigger difficulties down the road. For example, Fred A., one of our patients at Orthodontic Arts, came to us with a crossbite, open bite tendency, and crowding. Although he had never been truly comfortable with his smile, he had never pursued orthodontic treatment. But at age 60, he found that his crossbite was getting worse, causing discomfort. He was biting his cheeks constantly. Dr. Sterne likened Fred’s crossbite to hammering a nail at an angle; each time he bit down, Fred was driving his teeth farther to the side, and left untreated, he ran the risk of eventually driving his teeth out of the gum and bone. After 19 months in braces, Fred’s teeth were aligned and his crossbite was corrected. “I’m so glad I finally had braces treatment,” says Fred. “It really improved how my teeth look and function. I’d encourage every adult to not let age stand in the way of getting the smile they really want.”

4. There are more options available now to correct relapse of previous treatment. So maybe this isn’t your first time to the rodeo. Maybe you had braces as an adolescent. But back then, the science behind wearing retainers after braces wasn’t as evolved. Many patents were told they could throw their retainers away after a prescribed period of time. And many experienced relapse of the same issues they had before their braces. Perhaps this happened to you. Or maybe you simply weren’t as faithful with your retainers as you should have been in the first place. Now you’re older and wiser and can appreciate the importance of compliance with your orthodontic program. Some things really are better the second time around! And more orthodontic options are available now. Limited or partial treatment with braces or retainers, clear plastic aligners, and clear braces are a few considerations.

5. Freed up time and resources = opportunity for self-investment. Orthodontics wasn’t as commonplace when most of today’s seniors were growing up, and some families simply couldn’t afford it. But when many of these individuals had families of their own, they recognized the value and invested in their children’s orthodontic care. With their kids now grown, many older adults feel that they can finally focus their attention and use their resources on their own needs that they’ve put aside for so long. Remember, taking care of yourself isn’t selfish; in fact, it ensures that you’ll be at your best for those you care about.

So, don’t be shy; call us to set up a free consultation with Dr. Sterne or Dr. Prillaman to see how orthodontics can benefit you. After all, you weren’t born yesterday; you know what’s good for you. And you know that a beautiful, healthy smile is ageless.

–by Karen Allard

*“The World: Life Expectancy (2016) – 100+,” www.geoba.se

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