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.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Top Oral Care Tips Related to ADULT ORTHODONTICS

  • Flossing – creating a flossing routine is important during orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists and hygienists may recommend interdental brushes or floss threaders to make getting in between teeth easier.

  • Brushing routine – using fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush are ideal for cleaning teeth with braces. Begin brushing at a 45-degree angle at the gum line using small circular motions. Then place the toothbrush on top of the brackets, angling down to brush on top of each bracket. Finally, reposition the brush to brush the bottom of the bracket as well as the wire, angling the toothbrush up.

  • Fluoride mouthwash – after brushing and flossing, rinse with a fluoride mouthwash to help prevent cavities and white spots.

  • Mouthguards – wear a mouthguard if you play sports. Mouthguards can protect your cheeks and lips from serious cuts and can prevent damage to your braces or orthodontic appliance if you fall down or are hit in the face.