Do I need braces?

Updated August 17, 2016

Do you have misaligned teeth? Do you suffer from an overbite or an underbite? Are you embarrassed by your crooked teeth? If so, you may want to look into getting braces!

We often think braces are only for teenagers, but this isn't always the case. There are many adults who find that the need braces well after their childhood. It could be that you did not receive dental care as a child or maybe you had braces but didn't wear your retainer the way you were supposed to once they were removed. Whatever the reason, you might be questioning whether your smile would benefit from braces. 


What's in your mouth?

If your teeth are too close together, too far apart, or if you have an underbite or an over bite, you might be a candidate for braces. An overbite is when the top row of teeth protrude out from the lower teeth when you bite down and an underbite is when your lower row of teeth protrude out too far in front of the top teeth when you bite down. Neither of these conditions is good for your jaw or your bite. If you have a bite that isn't right, you could experience jaw pain and even headaches. 

Headaches can be caused from many different types of dental issues. If you have noticed you have either an overbite or underbite, it may be causing you to have recurring headaches that start during breakfast and last until bedtime. Since you are not chewing or eating while you sleep, this is the only time your jaw can rest and the headache subsides. When you wake up the next morning, you usually feel pretty good, until you start to eat. Once you start the process of mastication and chewing your food, your abnormal bite starts to interfere and cause your jaw to be off center which, in turn, causes you to develop a headache. Sometimes these headaches can even turn into migraines.

If you are developing jaw pain when you eat or speak, or if you have a popping sensation in your jaw when you open your mouth, you may be suffering from a condition called TMJ or temporomandibular joint. TMJ pain can develop in your jaw and can be referred to your face and jaw. People mistakenly go to the doctor for a sinus infection or a headache, when really it is the joint in their jaw that is causing all the trouble. Symptoms of TMJ dysfunction include pain that is localized to the jaw or spreading pain to include the face, head, and neck. There is usually a grinding or clicking noise when the jaw opens to either eat or speak. The jaw may even lock in severe cases!

If you believe you are suffering from headaches or jaw pain due to TMJ, make an appointment with your dentist to get to the bottom of the headaches. If your dentist cannot find anything wrong with your dental structures, teeth, or jaw bone, he or she may refer you to a primary care doctor for further evaluation. 

Not only do braces help cosmetically by giving you a much more attractive smile, they can actually improve the overall health of your teeth and gums as well. Overcrowded teeth are prone to cavities and plaque. 

Why? The tight spacing means that it's harder for your toothbrush, floss, and even the dentist's tools to reach all of the spaces that need cleaning. With more places to hide, food particles and bacteria are more likely to lead to plaque, tartar, cavities, and bad breath. On the opposite end of the spectrum, while teeth with too much space may be easier to keep clean, they can cause problems with your jaw and bite.

Talk to your dentist about braces

The best thing to do if you feel you would benefit from braces is to talk to your dentist. Most can evaluate the spacing of your teeth and your bite and tell you if braces will fix any problems. Dentists will also be able to refer you to a good orthodontist who will be able to help you further. 

Sometimes, adults get braces because they simply have crooked teeth. These teeth might be clean and healthy and their bite may be fine, but many people associate crooked teeth with poor oral hygiene. There's nothing wrong with getting braces for cosmetic reasons, but they’re not a very cosmetic solution while on your teeth!

There are options

If you are willing to spend a little more, there are many great options for braces that aren't your standard metal set. Some braces today are nearly invisible. Even if you get the standard metal braces, they are still a considerable investment. 

The non-metal sets of braces are convenient for teens and adults alike. They consist of custom made plastic aligners that look similar to a mouth guard you may wear at night or if you play sports. These aligners come in a series of eighteen to thirty molds. They are removable and are replaced with the next mold every two weeks. There are a few pros and cons to these non-traditional style braces. They are almost invisible so people cannot see that you have braces. You are also able to eat and drink anything you want, unlike traditional braces where you are unable to eat caramel or bite into a crisp apple.

One of the cons to these type of braces include cost. These braces are not cheap and you may pay a substantial amount more by going with these aligners. These braces cannot be used in children and they are not for serious dental issues. Also, they can be lost easily as they are not attached permanently to your teeth.  The last negative aspect is that you may have to wear them longer than traditional braces to get the same results. 

Most adults have to wear braces for twelve to twenty months, possibly more. Once the braces are removed, a retainer will need to be worn to keep your teeth from moving back. How long? Possibly forever! 

There's no denying it, braces are a commitment, from having a mouth full of metal to wearing your retainer, but the end result will be a beautiful smile and maybe even improved oral health!

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