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Healthy teeth can be adjusted at almost any age

September is Adult Oral Health Awareness Month, and the nation's orthodontists want adults to know that orthodontic treatment can mean improved dental health and beautiful smiles.

One in five orthodontic patients today is an adult-a record number. Age need not be a consideration in orthodontic treatment. Healthy teeth can be moved at almost any age.

"People want their teeth to stay healthy as long as they live," said Dr. Nahid Maleki, a Washington, D.C., orthodontist, adding that 30 percent of her patients are adults.

More adults than ever recognize that teeth can last a lifetime. As a result, many are taking better care of their teeth. Since 1960, the rate of toothlessness among people age 55 to 64 has dropped 60 percent, according to a recent survey.

In addition to the cosmetic effect, many dental professionals recommend orthodontic treatment for adult patients to benefit their overall oral health.

Plaque - a colorless, sticky film of bacteria, food particles and saliva that constantly forms in the mouth - is difficult to remove effectively from improperly aligned teeth.

Plaque feeds on sugars and starches to form an acid that endangers teeth and gums. Orthodontic treatment makes plaque removal easier because misalignment is eliminated.

Malocclusion ("bad bite") is characterized by crowded teeth, extra teeth, missing teeth or jaws that are out of alignment. A proper bite is necessary to avoid hazardous wear-and-tear on teeth.

Orthodontic treatment has come a long way, too. Some treatments take more time for an adult than they do for children because an adult's facial bones are no longer growing and certain corrections may not be accomplished with braces alone. But today's braces are smaller and less noticeable, such as tooth-colored braces, or gold-colored brackets and wires.

A healthy, beautiful smile is as important at age 60 as it is at age 16.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

09/12/2005

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