They say a smile is worth a thousand words, and it's often the first facial trait we notice. If you never experienced a mouth full of metal in grade school, chances are you were born with perfect teeth, or you're like me and are seeking options for "adult braces."
Lucky for us, gone are the days of your only option being intense headgear and traditional braces. Thanks to innovations such as SmileDirectClub and Invisalign, adult braces can be simple, non-invasive, and done in the comfort of your home. We tapped cosmetic dentists Jeffrey Sulitzer, DMD, and Richard Lipari, DDS, to learn the ins and outs of getting braces as an adult. Read on for what they told us.
Meet the Expert
- Jeffrey Sulitzer, DMD, is the lead dentist at SmileDirectClub.
- Richard Lipari, DDS, is a cosmetic and general dentist who practices in Chappaqua, New York providing care to Westchester and the greater New York City area.
Types Of Braces
The most popular—and typically most desired—adult braces are clear aligners. The experts say they are more cost-effective, easier to use, and generally more aesthetically pleasing than conventional metal braces.
Clear aligners are created custom for your mouth and, like metal braces, can be worn over time to shift teeth properly into place. Unlike metal braces, these aligners can be sent to you straight at home for wear and don't require a medical professional for installation or removal.
Costs can vary for clear aligners, but SmileDirectClub asks for a one-time payment of $2,050 or monthly installments of $89. Invisalign can vary depending on the complexity of your dental issues but typically range from $2,000 to $5,000.
Metal braces are the "traditional" form of braces. Small metal brackets and wires are attached to your teeth, shifting their placement over time. These braces require in-person visits with an orthodontist and cannot be done at home.
Metal braces also tend to be more expensive due to multiple variables (including the time needed and where your orthodontist is located), but according to a breakdown published by Oral-B, they typically cost between $3,000-$7,000.
Lingual braces are a type of metal braces that are installed on the inside of your teeth. These braces are gaining popularity due to their lack of visibility. Experts share that the lingual braces can often take longer to get used to and may cause discomfort or a lisp at first. It's also important to note that lingual braces are typically the most expensive braces, often ranging in the $10,000 area. That said, as Lipari reminds us, "the cost [of all braces] depends on your provider and the extent of the individual case, which would require an evaluation."
Ceramic braces are similar to metal braces, except they are small ceramic brackets. In terms of appearance, they tend to blend in with the tooth and be less visible than a metal brace. They are also typically more expensive than metal braces, generally ranging from $4,000-$8,000. It should be noted that ceramic braces are less durable than metal braces and are more than twice as likely to break or fracture.
Reasons To Get Braces As An Adult
"The main reasons to get braces as an adult would be for an esthetic and/or functional fix," Lipari says. "Braces can help fix rotated or misaligned teeth and create proper occlusion between the top and bottom teeth."
Sulitzer also notes that in a recent OnePulse Survey led by SmileDirectClub, 81 percent of Americans revealed they desire straighter teeth. "Confidence radiates through your smile, and that confidence [reaches into] all aspects of your life when you no longer feel self-conscious about how your teeth look," he says.
What to Expect
Once you've decided to get braces or clear aligners, the preparation is minimal. You'll of course want to keep your teeth in as pristine condition as possible, cleaning, flossing, and following the recommendations of your dental professional.
If you go the route of a clear aligner such as SmileDirectClub, you'll be guided step by step on what to expect before, during, and after the process. "With SmileDirectClub, customers have three options for getting started: by visiting a local SmileShop, ordering a doctor-prescribed impression kit, or going directly to a doctor’s chair via our partner network," explains Sulitzer. "One of our affiliated state-licensed dentists or orthodontists will review, finalize, and approve your custom treatment plan from a 3D image and other clinical information. If they determine you’re a candidate for clear aligner therapy, your treating doctor will prescribe and monitor your treatment from beginning to end utilizing our innovative telehealth platform. SmileDirectClub will ship all of your aligners at once, delivered right to your door. You’ll have regular virtual check-ins throughout treatment to ensure your teeth are moving safely and according to plan."
In terms of what to expect during your braces term, mild discomfort across the board is common, regardless of what type of braces you opt for. "Regarding discomfort, having mild pain or sore teeth during the course of wearing your aligners is completely normal," says Sulitzer. "Think about how you feel after a good workout at the gym —a bit sore, but you also know that's a positive thing because it means your muscles are working hard. The same is true for your teeth. The first few days with each set may be a bit uncomfortable as the teeth shift and get used to moving where they should be."
Once your braces are on, you'll want to treat them with care to make the process as quick, efficient, and successful as possible. "Especially with traditional metal braces, it can be a lot more difficult to clean your teeth, so you must be more diligent with brushing twice daily," Lipari emphasizes. "Flossing can be difficult with braces, so a water flosser can be a good alternative. Additionally, with braces you want to avoid eating popcorn, hard candies, and chewing gum. Eating some of these hard foods can result in a wire breaking which can be very sharp."
If you opt for a clear aligner, the care will be generally more straightforward since you can remove the aligners as needed. "As part of your oral hygiene routine, you should clean aligners every night to remove debris and food particles that built up during the day," says Sulitzer. Some aligners come with special cleaning tablets or even devices that specifically clean them. Aligners will come with a case to safely store them when eating, drinking, or brushing. Brushing, flossing, and whitening habits should stay the same while using aligners as long as they are removed while performing these tasks. Your diet should be able to remain the same."
How Long Will It Take?
This is a difficult question to answer on a broad spectrum because every set of teeth is different and requires different care and treatment to get the desired results. "Length of treatment depends on the complexity of the individual case," Lipari confirms. "With clear aligners, how fast the case is completed depends a lot on the patient. The more consistently a patient wears their aligners, the faster the treatment is."
That being said, Sulitzer notes that traditional metal braces are typically worn for about 18-24 months, and clear aligners can generally be used to transform your smile in under a year. "SmileDirectClub can deliver your new smile in six months or less," Sulitzer says. "It is important to know, however, that the duration of your aligner treatment varies [from person to person] since the starting point for all is different. The time in seeing results from the aligners varies depending on the severity of the crowding or spacing of your teeth and how much truly needs to be adjusted."
One size does not fit all when it comes to braces, and it's important to understand what type of program will work for you. Clear aligners are typically designed to address mild to moderate crowding and spacing of teeth. Patients with more complex cases may require metal braces.
Lipari adds that sometimes, you may not need braces at all. "Often if someone’s bite or the position of their teeth is only 'slightly off,' it can be fixed with porcelain veneers as opposed to orthodontics," he says. "This depends on the particular patient's teeth, and veneer treatment is not always an alternative to orthodontics."
The Final Takeaway
Thinking about taking the leap as and getting braces as an adult? The experts say go for it. Along with the potential boost in confidence, "having straighter teeth makes it much easier to conduct your daily brushing and flossing, which in turn can have a positive effect on your overall general health," says Sulitzer.
Affordable Teeth Straightening Aligners | SmileDirectClub
The Invisalign cost | How much is Invisalign treatment.
How much do braces cost? Oral-B.
Chalipa J, Jalali YF, Gorjizadeh F, Baghaeian P, Hoseini MH, Mortezai O. Comparison of Bond Strength of Metal and Ceramic Brackets Bonded with Conventional and High-Power LED Light Curing Units. J Dent (Tehran). 2016 Nov;13(6):423-430. PMID: 28243304; PMCID: PMC5318499.