Seeking a Straighter Smile: My Adult Braces Story

Setting a New Year’s resolution usually includes something like losing weight, saving money, or learning a new hobby.

My New Year’s resolution for 2016 was to fix my teeth. As someone who chronically avoided the dentist due to some traumatic childhood fear, I knew I was going to have to get over it if I was going to meet my goal.

I went to a dentist’s office knowing there would be a list of procedures I would have to work through before I could start seeing an orthodontist. First and foremost: get all four wisdom teeth removed (at the age of 25). I slowly but surely worked my way through my dental to-do list and finally it was time to find an orthodontist.

Kathryn Hawkes

A friend of mine referred me to her orthodontist where she had also gotten adult braces. She told me she only had her braces on for six months. It sounded too good to be true, but I was intrigued and made an appointment. Sure enough, my proposed treatment time was just six to eight months.

Fast forward to today. I’m nearly five months into my treatment, my teeth have moved substantially and I am nearing the home stretch.

For many adults, braces are something you got as a teenager – and if you didn’t get them before some preconceived deadline, then you didn’t get them. Advances in modern dentistry offer a lot of options, many being virtually to completely unnoticeable:

  • Clear aligner trays: Similar to braces, clear aligners use a gradual force to control tooth movement, but without metal wires or brackets. Common clear aligners include Invisalign and Clear Correct. These options allow you to wear trays that are changed out over time; they’re placed over top of teeth much like a retainer or whitening trays.
  • Clear braces: Ceramic braces are identical to metal braces, except that they have tooth-colored or clear brackets that blend in to teeth, as well as tooth-colored wires that are less noticeable. (These are the type of braces I have.)
  • Lingual, or behind-teeth braces: Lingual braces are placed behind the teeth using the same bracket and wire technology as traditional braces. These are the most discreet braces, popularized by celebrities. These braces are also the most costly because they are customized for each person so they do not interfere with your tongue and speech.

If you’re seeking a straighter smile as an adult, you’re not alone. The American Association of Orthodontists found the number of adult orthodontia patients is roughly 1.2 million, or 20 percent of the 5.9 million patients nationwide.

While the treatment time and cost will vary based on location, type of braces, and severity, costs average from $3,000-$6,000 but could go even higher and treatment times can range from six to 24 months.

Some insurance plans offer coverage for orthodontic work depending on your plan. Health savings accounts can also be used if the procedure has some medical necessity. If neither of those apply to you, discuss payment options with your orthodontist. I pay a monthly out-of-pocket rate without financing or interest.

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Photo credit: monica y garza (feature), courtesy image (inset)

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