Wearing braces is a rite of passage for many kids. But increasingly, adults are also getting braces to straighten their teeth, fix their bites and improve their smiles.
Orthodontic options that make braces inconspicuous are a big part of this rising popularity. If you're considering getting braces, here's what you should know.
First, you're not alone. A 2014 survey from the American Association of Orthodontists found that adults made up a record high of nearly 1.5 million orthodontics patients in the U.S. and Canada.
About three-fourths of adult patients at Storie and Sturgill Orthodontics, based in Johnson City, Tennessee, are there for cosmetic reasons, says orthodontist Dr. Jeremiah Sturgill. "Several years ago it was very, very rare," he says. "But now the technology we have, and the clear brackets that have also come a long way, are helping adults feel more comfortable about getting braces as well."
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Even for patients who get braces to look better, it's often a matter of "form follows function," says Sturgill, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. "A beautiful smile is not only great aesthetics, but it's also easier to clean your teeth if they're well-aligned. You don't have those nooks and crannies."
Sometimes, functional reasons send adults to the orthodontist, Sturgill says. Teeth may be missing, or patients might need space opened or bone built for an implant. In some complex cases, he says, braces are a means to build a foundation for prosthetic work.
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By Lisa Esposito, Staff Writer