FAQ About Orthodontic Treatment for Adults
2. How does adult treatment differ from that of children and adolescents?
Adults are not growing and may have experienced some breakdown or loss of their teeth and bone that supports the teeth. Orthodontic treatment may then be only a part of the patient’s overall treatment plan. Close coordination may be required between the orthodontist, oral surgeon, periodontist, endodontist and family dentist to assure that a complicated adult orthodontic problem is managed well and complements all other areas of the patient’s treatment needs. Below are the most common characteristics that can cause adult treatment to differ from treatment for children.
No jaw growth: Jaw problems can usually be managed well in a growing child with an orthopedic, growth-modifying appliance. However, the same problem for an adult may require jaw surgery. For example, if an adult’s lower jaw is too short to match properly with the upper jaw, a severe bite problem may result. The limited amount that the teeth can be moved with braces alone may not correct this bite problem. Bringing the lower teeth forward into a proper bite relationship could require jaw surgery, which would lengthen the lower jaw and bring the lower teeth forward into the proper bite. Other jaw-width or jaw-length discrepancies between the upper and lower jaws might also require surgery for bite correction if tooth movement alone cannot correct the bite.
Gum or bone loss (periodontal breakdown): Adults are more likely to have experienced damage or loss of the gum and bone supporting their teeth (periodontal disease). Special treatment by the patient’s dentist or a periodontist may be necessary before, during and/or after orthodontic treatment. Bone loss can also limit the amount and direction of tooth movement that is advisable.
Worn, damaged or missing teeth: Worn, damaged or missing teeth can make orthodontic treatment more difficult. Teeth may gradually wear and move into positions where they can be restored only after precise orthodontic movement. Damaged or broken teeth may not look good or function well even after orthodontic treatment unless they are carefully restored by the patient’s dentist. Missing teeth that are not replaced often cause progressive tipping and drifting of other teeth, which worsens the bite, increases the potential for periodontal problems and makes any treatment more difficult.