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Better late than never: Adults realizing benefits of straightening teeth

HOUSTON – Teens aren’t the only ones wearing braces these days.

More adults are choosing to improve their smile.

“We see a lot of adults now rebooting their careers at 50, 55 and going in a different direction and it's like, OK, I got to take care of this,” Dr. Scott Tyler, an orthodontist, explained.

Tyler says 30 percent of his practice is now made up of adults.

Many have never had orthodontia. Their teeth moved as they aged.

“Arch form is the No. 1 thing we're trying to address in adults. Because the natural aging process is for the arch to narrow. That's where we see the chipping and the fracturing,” Tyler added.

Ruth Foon is one of his patients.

“At my age I want to be comfortable. And I want to look good,” Foon said.

So when Foon was nearly 70, she decided it was time.

“I had moved my teeth by grinding them, even on the top, and it was bothering me. The bite was very bad,” she added.

Fortunately orthodontic technology has made it so much easier to correct problems.

“We've got a lot of different ways to move your teeth,” Tyler said.

Traditional metal and wires can be used in adults, but ceramic brackets that are clear or the color of your teeth are more cosmetic and they're more common.

But the No. 1 choice in adults is plastic trays.

“Extremely discrete, very comfortable. And the ability to remove the tray for eating and brushing is worth the price of the admission,” Tyler said.

“Invisalign are thin. You put them on and you hardly know they're there,” Foon explained.

Tyler says adult patients are different than teens both psychologically and physically because they've usually had prior dental work.

“For adults that have a lot of previous restorative experience, they have a lot of porcelain in their mouth. It's very difficult to glue braces to their teeth," Tyler said.

But where there is a will, there is a way.

“If you're in your 60s and you see that (your) teeth don't look great, do something," Tyler said.

Orthodontists say the position of your teeth also affects the appearance of your lips, jaw and face even when your mouth is closed.

Having your teeth properly aligned and your bite corrected often produces a youthful cosmetic change in your facial appearance.