We consider an adult patient to be a person whose bone growth has stopped.
Although there are differences between men and women, and the time when growth stops varies between people of the same sex, for the purposes of orthodontics we consider an adult to be people over the age of 20 years.
Psychological characteristics of the adult patient
The adult patient tends to have a number of doubts and fears with respect to orthodontics, but these are solved when they come to the surgery.
Afterwards, once motivated, they are more comfortable with the treatment than an adolescent or a child.
Adult patients are worried about their physical appearance during treatment; we therefore always use aesthetic white rather than metal brackets with adults.
White brackets are somewhat more expensive, but their aesthetic appearance is worth the effort. This means that only the fine metal wire connecting the brackets can be seen.
They may worry about comments, or about being less attractive during treatment. In fact friends, rather than asking them why they are having brackets fitted at their age like teenagers, tend to congratulate them for looking after themselves and for the effort they are making to improve the health and appearance of their teeth.
Wearing brackets makes a person look younger, implying that they care for their health and that they look after themselves.
We must remember that crowded or badly aligned teeth trap food between them, often leading to inflamed gums and tooth decay.
Orthodontics, on aligning the teeth, improve the results of brushing, and in turn improve the health of your teeth and your gums.
Adults like to know the details of their treatment; they are also afraid that the treatment period will be too long. While it is true that the treatment time is rather long, 18-24 months go by in a flash. And although half way through the treatment you may feel that it will never end, in fact it passes sooner than you think.
Adult orthodontics patients tend to be far more motivated than the majority of children or adolescents. It is them who have chosen to have the treatment and pay for it rather than their parents, like in child and adolescent patients.
Sometimes adults take years to think it over and decide to have orthodontics treatment. This is because they think that perhaps their teeth aren’t moving, or they are put off by the visits to their dentist or by the careful cleaning required by the treatment… But once they do decide, they do it enthusiastically.
In the end they are satisfied with the efforts made by the dentist, and by themselves, and with the aesthetic and functional results of the treatment.
Specific characteristics of adult orthodontics
Some adult patients, whose teeth are tightly joined to the bone, are sensitive towards the movement of their teeth.
While they may suffer discomfort during the first two or three months, it will only be in the first few days after visiting their dentist. If they do feel discomfort, they can take low dosage Ibuprofen (300 mg, i.e. half a tablet) for the pain.
Besides, in adults we use very fine arches which move the teeth gently and don’t cause discomfort.
The brackets may cause irritation of the lips and cheeks, and sometimes a little sore can appear; but these soon heal by themselves. If a metal tie has come loose and is sticking into the lip, it must be changed; and if it is the arch which has slipped out of the bracket, it must be returned to its place. We also fit elastic bands over the metal ties so that they fill the bracket space and prevent discomfort from occurring.
However, if the irritation is only caused by the bracket, we give the patient wax at the surgery which they can rub on themselves, and the discomfort soon stops. This is only an issue during the first month of treatment.
Orthodontics in patients with crowns and bridges
Some patients have crowns or bridges, normally in porcelain.
- In the event of crowns, these can usually stay in place on the back teeth.
- Porcelain veneers however will probably have to be changed, as will bridges between teeth.
Whatever the case, these factors are carefully observed during the orthodontics study, and a quote is drawn up for all potential changes required. At the end of the day, since the adult patient is very pleased with the aesthetic and functional result, they don’t generally mind having to change the odd crown.
Many also ask us to apply a tooth whitening treatment, and this is another reason to change an old and slightly discoloured crown.
Dental hygiene during treatment
- As far as hygiene is concerned, there is generally no great problem in the adult patient, who knows that they have to brush their teeth after every meal.
- If possible, they should try not to snack between meals because they would also have to brush their teeth after eating. This will prevent tooth decay or gingivitis from appearing during the treatment.
Often the patient gets used to the brushing routine required by orthodontics and continues to use the good habit afterwards, substantially improving their buccal health. This is another advantage of orthodontics.
Today, if a person has the desire and interest, they can have orthodontics treatment at any age.