Stacie White still recalls how smooth her teeth felt after having the stainless steel brackets of her braces removed from her teeth a year ago.
“They felt so smooth, and my teeth are beautiful now,” the Oswego resident says. “I love my smile.”
Unlike most orthodontic patients, White is not in her teens. She is one of a growing number of adults who are deciding to undergo orthodontic treatment.
“It took me 30 years to get the courage to do something about the gaps between my teeth,” White says. “I was 42 years old when I got them on. I found that most people would notice they were there and then forget about it. Now that I am done, I am absolutely glad that I did this.”
The American Association of Orthodontists reports that the number of adult orthodontic patients increased 14 percent in a two-year period from 2010 to 2012 for a total of more than 1.2 million adult patients.
Dr. Jacqueline Zimmer of Prairie View Orthodontics sees patients in Batavia, Aurora and Oswego. She has seen a steady flow of adult patients in her practice.
“I would say that, about 75 percent of the time, adults are coming in for cosmetic reasons,” she says.
She says her patients tell her how their families could not afford braces or how some patients refused treatment when they were younger.
Other adults seek treatment to help with more serious issues.
“If a person has missing teeth from a failed root canal or other issues and needs an implant, the rest of the teeth need to be in alignment for the implant,” Zimmer says. “Other patients may have problems with their teeth wearing down due to poorly positioned teeth. In these cases, there is a partnership with the dentist, periodontist or oral surgeon to address the problems.”
One concern of adult patients is the appearance of braces, but today, there are other options beyond the traditional stainless steel brackets.
“There are now ceramic braces that are tooth colored. Most of the wires are still visible but, in combination with the ceramic bracket, offer a much more esthetic option,” Zimmer says. “Also, Invisalign treatment straightens the teeth without brackets or wires. They utilize a series of clear plastic shells that are worn over the teeth to gradually align the teeth. They are taken out to eat and floss.”
Emily DeAno, 27, of Naperville, started her Invisalign treatment in December at the Naperville location of Innovative Orthodontic Centers.
“I have always wanted a better smile,” the mom says. “I thought that, since I have a cross bite and over crowding of teeth, I would have to have regular braces, but I found out that I can use Invisalign. There was a short adjustment period, but now, I don’t even feel they are on. Hardly anyone ever notices them.”
DeAno is using AcceleDent in conjunction with Invisalign. She says she can almost feel her teeth moving when she uses it.
“Every day for 20 minutes, I put this small mouthpiece in my mouth and turn it on,” DeAno says. “It sort of vibrates. When I take it off, my Invisaligns fit better, and I can tell my teeth have moved a little.”
She says she can wear it while watching TV or driving. And it’s painless.
“In fact, it is pain relieving for me,” DeAno says. “The vibration sort of soothes things.”
Dr. Manal Ibrahim of Innovative Orthodontic Centers has been offering AcceleDent to her patients for about nine months.
“I have really found that the treatment time for orthodontic treatment can be cut in half with AcceleDent if instructions are followed,” Ibrahim says. “This is very appealing to adults who want the treatment to be over with as soon as possible.”
She explains that the FDA-cleared medical device looks like a mouthpiece. Patients bite down on the device, which sends out pulses for 20 minutes. A timer sounds when 10 minutes have passed and then the device shuts off automatically.
“The soft pulsing is super gentle and offers less vibration than an electric toothbrush,” Ibrahim says. “It cuts down on tooth movement discomfort or sensitivity. Some patients say it is like a massager for the teeth. Some patients even say it puts them to sleep because it is so relaxing.”
The results have been very positive, according to Ibrahim.
“Patients are amazed at how rapidly the treatment goes,” she explains. “I have found that the teeth move more quickly and predictably with AcceleDent. It is great for morale and compliance since patients see a change.”
The cost of adding AcceleDent to an orthodontic treatment is usually less than $1,000, and most insurance companies do not provide coverage for it. Ibrahim says that this might change in the future.
“AcceleDent has absolutely changed orthodontic treatment,” she claims.
Zimmer notes there are also some less complicated treatment options.
“Some issues like a single tooth that is out of line can be addressed with just a spring retainer,” Zimmer says. “Sometimes all that is needed are braces on the bottom teeth.”
She says getting an evaluation is key.
“There are a few things that are harder to correct in adults than in children, but there are many options so it is worth getting an evaluation,” Zimmer says.
The cost for orthodontic treatment varies depending on a patient’s needs. The costs can range from $250 for a simple retainer to $2,800 to $6,000 for Invisalign, ceramic braces, stainless steel braces and other treatment options.
Both orthodontists remind adults that it is never too late to explore the possibility of having a great smile.
“I know that there is a large movement of adults looking for a beautiful smile with straight teeth,” Ibrahim says. “It increases confidence and makes people happier.”