The most common time to get braces is in childhood. This is the ideal time for orthodontics because the jawbone is still growing. But adults can also benefit from orthodontic treatment.
There are, however, a few differences between orthodontics for children and orthodontics for adults.
Orthodontic Treatment Is Longer for Adults
Children's jaws continue to grow until they are in their late teens. Orthodontists can work with the growth to move children's teeth more easily. If a child's jawbone is too small, for instance, an orthodontist can expand the palate so that the jawbone can accommodate more teeth.
But since adult jawbones have stopped growing, moving teeth through the bone can be a little more difficult. As such, orthodontic treatment tends to take a little longer for adults.
Adults Sometimes Need Tooth Extraction Before Orthodontics
While an orthodontist can stimulate a child's jawbone to grow in a manner that works with orthodontic treatment, the same is not true for adult jawbones. This means that if an adult's jawbone is too small to accommodate all of its teeth without crowding, then extraction might be necessary to improve an adult patient's bite.
Sometimes, an orthodontist will extract one or more teeth to make room for the other teeth.
Adults Tend to Have More Existing Dental Issues
By the time an adult opts to get braces, they may already have had several dental issues to contend with in their lifetime. This can make orthodontic treatment a little more difficult. For instance, if an adult patient has several crowns or veneers, an orthodontist will need to take care when placing the brackets. Sometimes, brackets can damage veneers or crowns.
If a patient has had a lot of restorative dental treatment, like fillings, crowns and veneers, then Invisalign is a better approach. Invisalign doesn't require the use of brackets.
Adults Have Less Available Bone Than Children
As people age, their jawbone gradually resorbs. This is especially true if a person has lost teeth or suffered from dental infections like gum disease or severe tooth decay. Because of this, adults may sometimes require a bone graft to strengthen an area of the jawbone before orthodontic treatment.
For instance, if an orthodontist wishes to move a tooth into a space previously occupied by another tooth, they may bolster that area with a bone graft first. This is because the bone that once supported the missing tooth has resorbed. This will add a few months to the total treatment time.
There is no age limit to orthodontic treatment. But the earlier an adult undergoes orthodontic treatment, the better.