Orthodontic Treatment as an Adult

Orthodontic treatment is typically associated with young people. However, adult care is the fastest growing segment in the field. Around half of our patients at RLO are adults.

Last month, we discussed the importance of early checkups for children. Now we’ll focus on understanding the popularity and various options for adult orthodontic care.

Reasons for Seeking Treatment as an Adult

Wanted Since Childhood

Many of our adult patients have wanted treatment since childhood but weren’t able to receive it. Treatment wasn’t sought out by parents, whether they didn’t know about their options, couldn’t afford it, or simply didn’t think it was necessary. Never having been completely satisfied with the look or function of their teeth, adults often come to the point in their lives where they’re ready to start the process of achieving a smile they can be proud of.

Dental changes

Skeletal changes to the jaw can cause shifting of the teeth and an unpleasant bite or esthetic. For instance, as you age, your lower arch becomes more narrow which causes crowding to the lower teeth. 

Just because you’re an adult, doesn’t mean you don’t care about the look of your smile. 

Resuming Treatment

When people move, run out of funding, or lose family stability, their braces, understandably, can take a back seat amongst greater concerns. If the orthodontist isn’t invested in the case and understanding of the circumstances, this can prove detrimental to the treatment process.

Patients in these situations are in a tough spot. Whether they’ve already started treatment or not, the smile they were anxiously awaiting and excited to reveal, gets put on hold – sometimes indefinitely.


There are adult patients that received treatment in the past, but either didn’t retain the alignment, or didn’t receive quality care.

One of the most common reasons we see adults is poor retention. Diligent retainer wear is paramount to keeping straight teeth. The common ortho phrase to explain this is: “teeth have memory.” Teeth will revert back to their original positions in the mouth eventually. Habitually wearing retainers at night forever maintains ideal alignment and ensures all that hard work doesn’t go to waste. Sometimes, it’s not always the patient’s lapse in diligence that is the problem. Depending on the movements that were made, permanent retainers don’t always keep teeth in place satisfactorily. Therefore, your doctor should make sure additional retention measures aren’t required to keep things in place.

Dental Health

In some cases, early intervention wasn’t received and years of a misaligned bite has taken its toll. 

  • Very crowded teeth can make maintaining good hygiene difficult. This leads to an increase in cavities and gum disease.
Adult with crowding
  • Left uncorrected, severe overbite can cause injury to the tissue of the upper palate and problems chewing properly.
  • Untreated overjet (protrusion) of teeth can increase incidence of dental trauma and injury.
  • Crossibites and other occlusal disorders can cause wear to the enamel over time.
  • Open bites can cause mouth breathing and lead to sleep apnea.
Adult with open bite
  • Studies are unable to show consistent evidence that orthodontic treatment can help TMJ disorders. Even so, malocclusion can act as an irritant to the bite, increasing clenching and grinding which does cause TMD symptoms.

While the ideal age for braces may be during the preteen years, this doesn’t mean the window for treatment is closed.

Adults obviously have more responsibilities on their shoulders and tend to put these before personal wants and needs. Getting ortho care may be on their mind, but there’s so much for them to consider before beginning that journey.

Adults have more options today than ever before in fixing their smiles.


The esthetic of the treatment route is usually more of a concern for adult patients. While some adults do like and want the look of traditional braces, clear aligners, such as Invisalign®, are usually equally effective in achieving your goals.

You can also choose clear ceramic brackets or matte hardware which provides a more subtle look if you prefer traditional braces.


Affordability is one of the greatest factors in the decision to start treatment. Many parents would have loved to have provided their kids with treatment, but they weren’t always in a place to do so financially. As those children become adults and begin working and managing their own money, they are able to make financial choices and prioritize their own needs. 

These days, many orthodontic practices work to provide flexibility and accessibility to budgets of all types. Here’s a list of available options for Red Leaf patients:

  • Free financing
  • Flexible payment plans
  • Low down payments
  • Discounts
  • Seasonal sales
  • Referral credits
  • Payment method options
  • Insurance benefits

With all these options, orthodontic work can be more affordable than ever.


Convenience is obviously an important factor in adult treatment. With a list of commitments, schedules are packed and available time is spread thin. Just like affordability options, there are many ways in which we try to make appointments as easy as possible.

  • Flexible hours help make appointments fit easily into your schedule. For example: RLO is open until 7pm two days a week and has full days on friday to open up availability.
  • The clear aligner route means only coming in for very short visits every 8 weeks or so after a 15 minute initial scan.
  • Virtual consults are available for initial consultations from the comfort of your home. During one, you can get many questions answered and an idea of financial details before commiting to a full fledged in-office exam.
  • A family friendly office means you don’t have to worry about finding childcare before coming in. Bring in the whole crew and we’ll turn on the cartoons and hand out snacks and toys!
  • Joint appointments means coordinating appointments for multiple people in the same household or friends carpooling, etc. This means less driving for you and consolidating care. 

How old is too old?

You’re never too old to seek help from an orthodontist. Although, as age advances, there are age-specific precautions your orthodontist should take. A diligent specialist should carefully examine and collaborate with your dentist to make sure your teeth and bones are healthy enough to be moved.

Regardless of the reason, we’re just happy that our adults are finally taking steps towards doing something for themselves. We feel good about being able to help people treat themselves. Orthodontic treatment isn’t the same type of self care as a much needed massage or pedicure. It is a specialty dedicated to fixing something that has been putting a wrench in someone’s self esteem, in some instances, for years. Usually, an adult has had “find a good orthodontist and fix teeth” on their list in the back of their mind for a very long time, but they prioritized themselves last. We hear, from time to time, the regret of not getting started sooner. Yes, it’s unfortunate they had to wait, but we focus on helping them get over the frustration, appreciate the opportunity, and look ahead to the big reveal!

Beginning the journey to a confident smile is exciting at all ages!