What Is the Best Way to Straighten Adult’s Teeth?

What Is the Best Way to Straighten Adult’s Teeth?

teeth-2In the past, only teenagers straightened teeth, but more and more adults are having orthodontic treatment to give them the smile they have always wanted. Nowadays, adults wearing braces don’t have the same stigma as they once did, but many adult patients still look for alternative treatments to straighten their teeth. With modern advances in dental technology, there are a range of orthodontic treatments available for patients. With all these choices, it can be a bit daunting to make the correct choice so here are my suggestions to help with your decision process.

Let us consider the most common orthodontic treatment, standard metal braces. These are very good at straightening teeth, but they are not very good at creating room for crowded teeth. If the orthodontic treatment only involves braces, then you will probably need to reduce the size of the teeth or have some teeth removed to allow space for the teeth to be straightened. Braces with adult teeth extractions, depending on the severity of the crowding, are commonly worn for two to three years, sometimes longer. The thought of braces for this length of time is enough to put many adults off having orthodontic treatment. Due to this, there have been a lot of developments within the last 10 years to find a solution for straightening teeth ‘invisibly’ without metal braces and to reduce the treatment time.

Options for Straightening

Tooth-coloured braces; braces that fit on the back of the teeth; clear aligners, such as Invisalign; and orthodontic plates. All these treatments have their advantages and disadvantages. I will discuss these to answer the above question.

Tooth-coloured braces work much the same as standard metal braces, except that treatment time can be longer as they are not quite as good at detailing the tooth positions. They are bulkier than metal braces, and although tooth-coloured, they are still somewhat visible.

Braces that fit on the back of the teeth are called Lingual braces. These are difficult to see so patients like them, but they are more technical to use. This means that treatment times are longer, and it’s harder to get a perfect result. The longer treatment time makes this treatment more expensive than standard braces. I have spoken with patient’s that have had Lingual braces. Their biggest complaint was that they couldn’t talk properly with these braces and that they constantly cut their tongue or they caused mouth ulcers.

Invisalign has become a popular treatment over the past 10 years. The treatment technology is impressive. With this treatment, patients wear a series of thin clear, virtually invisible aligners to gradually change the teeth positions. In my experience, it is a slow method of treatment and the final result is not as good as other methods. The cost of this treatment is very high due to the advanced technology used in their manufacture.

There are other types of clear aligners, but most only will move the front six teeth, from the canine tooth on one side to the canine tooth on the other. For minor treatments, this is a very good method for straightening teeth, and because the aligners are made locally, it is more economical than Invisalign.

For the tooth-coloured braces; Lingual braces; and the clear aligners, including Invisalign, none of these treatments are good at creating room for crowded teeth so many patients need to have the teeth reduced in size or have adult teeth removed to allow space for the teeth to be straightened.

Orthodontic plates are removable appliances that change the shape of the jaws and align the teeth as space is created. The big advantage of this treatment is that they prevent the need for adult teeth to be extracted. The plates do affect the speech, but only until the patient adapts to them, and they are invisible. They can be easily removed to clean the teeth and floss so there is a reduced chance of developing tooth decay with this method. There is normally a big improvement with just these plates, but depending on the severity of the problem, the patient still may need further treatment to get the best results. The good news is that the hard work has been done so the next treatment is normally less invasive. Commonly, braces are used for about six months, either metal or tooth-coloured, but the clear aligners are also an option for some patients.

So, what is the best way to straighten adult’s teeth?

In my opinion, the best results are achieved by using orthodontic plates to develop the size of the jaws to make room for the teeth. The main reason why teeth are crooked or crowded is due to the jaws being underdeveloped or too small for all the adult teeth. There are a number of reasons why the jaws have not grown to their full potential, but I find the best results are achieved when the jaws are widened with plates as this gives straight teeth and a broad natural smile. By removing adult teeth, the problem of underdeveloped or small jaws has not been addressed, and this can lead to other health problems, such as jaw joint disorders and snoring. I always prefer to treat the cause and not the symptom.
If after treatment with plates, the teeth still need to be moved into a better position, I will then recommend the metal braces for six months to align the teeth correctly. Most adults are okay with the shortened treatment time, but if they don’t want these, I will then offer the tooth-coloured braces or the clear aligners.