Since starting my private practice in 1992, I have observed that the number of adults seeking orthodontic treatment has increased every year. For whatever reason, the percentage of adults in active treatment has grown from about 15% to over 30% in 2017. What are the pros and cons of adult treatment and how is it different from adolescent treatment?
I love my adult patients. They are typically better informed, more motivated, follow instructions better, and usually have better oral hygiene than adolescents. With the availability of information on the Internet, most adult patients have a better understanding of their own condition and the possible treatment options than younger patients. Unlike teenagers who are many times compelled by their parents, adult patients usually pursue treatment because they want it or because they have been referred by their dentist. These differences usually result in better compliance.
Adult patients do face some challenges not faced by younger patients however. First, they are no longer growing. Growth can be a helpful in correcting many types of malocclusion (the exception being underbites). Examples of this include expanding the palate, opening the bite (by changing the direction of growth), and reducing the “overbite” (by restricting the forward growth of the upper jaw). Additionally, because their metabolism is slower than in growing patients, tooth movement in adults is usually slower and therefore their treatment times longer. Finally, adults tend to have more missing and compromised teeth (worn, misshaped, restored, etc.). This sometimes limits the options that are available to them.
Because of these differences, adult treatment varies from adolescent treatment in the following ways. Adult treatment usually takes longer than the same treatment in younger patients. Because there is no growth, extractions and surgery are more common if full correction is to be achieved. If teeth are missing or compromised, there may be fewer treatment options than with teenage patients. Since many adults don’t want to have teeth removed or have jaw surgery, many are willing to accept a degree of compromise not necessary in their children. On the upside, adult patients are usually more motivated and compliant than adolescents and are therefore better candidates for esthetic options like Invisalign clear aligners.
If you are an adult who is considering treatment for yourself, take heart. Although your treatment may take a little longer and may be more complicated, improved appearance, better function, and healthier teeth are achievable at any age. Make an appointment today to see how an orthodontist can help give you your best smile.
NOTE: The author, Dr. Greg Jorgensen, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (a suburb on the Westside of Albuquerque). He was trained at BYU, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa in the United States. Dr. Jorgensen’s 25 years of specialty practice and nearly 10,000 finished cases qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems (including conventional braces, Damon and other self-ligating brackets, Suresmile, and lingual braces). This blog is for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. Jorgensen is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of New Mexico. He cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can he select treatment plans for readers. Please understand that because he has tens of thousands of readers each month, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO RESPOND TO EVERY QUESTION. Please read all of the comments associated with each article as most of the questions he receives each week have been asked and answered previously. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author.