Braces will always be associated with awkward teenage years, but many people deal with metal braces, rubber bands and orthodontic treatments well into adulthood. There are many reasons why someone might need adult braces: those whose teeth relapsed after they didn’t wear their retainer, for instance, or those who weren't able to afford them when they were younger. Getting adult braces can carry a certain amount of metal mouth stigma, but it's more common than you would assume. We spoke to three real people about why they got adult braces, what it was really like and if it was all worth it.
Sarah, Milwaukee, WI
Sarah had braces when she was a teenager, but her teeth relapsed when she didn’t wear her retainer as instructed. Even though her teeth remained in a position that didn’t warrant having adult braces for medical reasons, their aesthetics became troublesome for her. “I had already been through the unpleasant experience of having braces when I was a teenager, but like many of my friends, I didn’t wear my retainer as I should have and my teeth went back to how they were before," she says. "I developed gaps between my teeth and a couple of them started to twist. It was bothering me, so I decided to look into having braces again, despite how much I hated the process the first time around.”
AEDIT: Which system did your orthodontist use and had you decided on the method before your consultation?
Sarah: “I got Invisalign and was pretty certain that was the system I wanted already before I had my first consultation. I was open to other options, but was set on not having super-visible metal brackets like I did before. We discussed my options and because the correction was relatively slight and my lifestyle suited removable braces, my orthodontist agreed to that treatment.”
AEDIT: How was the process of getting your braces fitted?
Sarah: “There was no braces fitting in the traditional sense, but I did have to have my teeth prepared. My orthodontist added some clear glue patches to certain teeth to help the aligners work effectively, and he also did interproximal reduction (IPR) on a couple of teeth to help them align properly. That part was a little unpleasant but not painful. They basically file away a little bit of your tooth, so it makes a weird sound, but it didn’t hurt.”
AEDIT: Did you experience any pain during the process?
Sarah: “There was definitely discomfort for a couple of days after changing each of the trays, but I expected it since I’d had braces before. The pain was very similar, so if you’ve already had braces, there aren’t really any surprises. Just make sure you have some painkillers to hand in case you need them in the first couple of days and you’ll be fine."
AEDIT: Do you have any advice for people considering having the same treatment?
Sarah: “It’s all pretty straightforward. The main thing I would recommend is to choose an orthodontist located near wherever you spend most of your time (in my case, near my office), so that you don’t miss appointments. Get yourself a nice bag for your toothbrush, toothpaste, and to put your trays in when you’re eating out.”
Lucille, El Paso, TX
Lucille suffered from tooth overcrowding for as long as she can remember. She’d always been bothered by her crooked teeth and had gotten used to hiding them when she smiled and avoided photos. “I’m a confident person," she says. "I’m outgoing and have a great social life, but my smile was holding me back. I wanted to be that girl who had a bright, All-American smile of straight teeth. Once I had the money to pay for braces myself, I was determined to get it.”
AEDIT: Which type of braces did you have?
Lucille: “I had lingual braces. They fit brackets to the inside of your teeth, so they aren’t visible when you speak or smile, but they’re strong enough to correct significant issues like mine. I was pleased there was a less obvious type of metal braces, so I didn’t have to be even more conscious of my smile while I was having it fixed. The only downside was the lisp I developed for the first two weeks or so, but once I got used to having the braces, I learned to speak pretty normally again.”
AEDIT: What was the most significant difficulty of having braces as an adult?
Lucille: “The maintenance and appointments were big commitments which could get difficult at times. Like many people, I’m juggling a lot of responsibilities between my work and home life, so adding another set of monthly appointments into the mix was daunting. Add in needing to be conscious about not eating certain foods and it got overwhelming in the beginning. But like anything, I got used to it and the appointments became part of my routine. It seemed strange when I got the braces off and was able to eat whatever I wanted and didn't need to go to the orthodontist all the time.”
AEDIT: Are you pleased with the results?
Lucille: “I am so pleased. The process was not instant, but the results made it worthwile. My smile is just how I imagined it. My orthodontist also whitened my teethafter I had the brackets taken off and I had one tooth reshaped, so now they look how I’d always wanted them to. It took some time to get used to not hiding my smile, but now I fully embrace it and feel much more comfortable giving presentations at work and around groups of people.”
AEDIT: Do you have any advice for patients considering getting lingual braces?
Lucille: “Make sure you do lots of research into the orthodontist you are choosing. Also, take some time to research what foods you can and can’t eat while the braces are on. That came as a surprise to me, but it’s easy enough to work around once you know.”
Terri, Los Angeles, CA
Terri had braces when she was younger, but her teeth moved during her two pregnancies (which is common). She decided to get braces again when her youngest child turned three and opted for Six Month Smile braces. “The look of the braces didn’t particularly bother me," she says. "I was working from home so I didn’t have to look a certain way for an office job. They were a similar type to the ones I’d had when I was younger and I wanted to go with a method I knew.”
AEDIT: Was the process similar to the time you had braces previously?
Terri: “It was definitely quicker. I had my previous braces on for three years, but this time the process only took six months, which was one of the main reasons I opted for the system. My teeth had moved too far apart and one of my teeth had crossed back over another as it was before I had braces in middle school. The process for getting the braces fitted was similar. My orthodontist took imprints of my teeth and I waited a few weeks to go back and have the braces fitted. They glued the brackets on and fitted the wire that was secured with elastic bands. The brackets were almost transparent this time, which definitely made them more suitable for my age.”
AEDIT: Was the process painful?
Terri: “It really was very similar to my first time. They were uncomfortable but not painful aside from the occasional wire poking the inside of my cheek. After they were tightened, my teeth were sore for a few days, but it wasn't unbearable. I think it helped to have had them before, so I knew what to expect.”
AEDIT: Are you pleased with the results? Terri: “I’m so pleased. The changes are subtle and many people ask me why I got braces again when my teeth still looked fine (according to them). But I feel more comfortable with the way I look now, and I’m so pleased I put myself first and went ahead with it. It’s important for me to set a positive example for my kids and if that means getting braces again, that’s fine by me.”
AEDIT: Any advice for patients considering having the same treatment? Terri: “Just do it! You won’t regret it. Even when your mouth is sore, keep the results in mind and push through. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to smile confidently again after being self-conscious about my smile for a long time. It makes the process and the money worth it.”