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Bracing myself for years of dental awkwardness!
February 9, 2014 5:26 PM   Subscribe

After having a normal dental childhood without braces, my front teeth have shifted significantly in the past couple years and now that I have a steady job and dental insurance (which I think only partially covers the cost of braces, if at all), I am looking forward to have straighter teeth but don't know what to look forward to with braces as an adult.

I have my first consultation with an orthodontist tomorrow.

I have a lot of basic questions (How long will they have to be on?, etc) that will be answered tomorrow but what did you wish that you would have known before you started braces as an adult?

What other questions should I ask that would make me learn whether orthodontist is overcharging me and that they are competent?
posted by fizzix to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Depends on what you have to have done. You could go with Invisiline(sp?) or that type product or you may have to have major movement that consists of brackets and wires. Do you have your wisdom teeth and are they fully errupted? That will make a big difference. Basic treatment with wires, etc. takes about two years. Then a year or so with a retainer with retainer checks on occasion. I'm not sure about Invisiline. Insurance covers about 2/3, at least that's what mine paid. Also it hurts a lot when you're older. Be prepared to eat mushy stuff for a couple days each time you have your braces tightened. I had mine in my early 20's and I didn't think it was that bad except once I had my monthly tightening and that evening was Valentine's dinner and I couldn't eat hardly anything,lol.
posted by PJMoore at 5:38 PM on February 9


I had braces as an adult and honestly it was not a big deal. For me it was quick (1.5 years - in comparison to the 6 years I spent with them growing up). I had the white braces and they were quite less visible and it took people a bit to notice them, I do recommend those - the color didn't get stained, but I also don't drink coffee.

There's really not much to prepare for or do beforehand. You won't know for certain how long they will be on. Towards the end of the treatment I was getting check-ups and tweaks once a week (I had those insane bands that restrict your jaw mobility - those sucked), it was sort of crazy time and I was just waiting for my orthodontist to tell me it's time to take them off. It dragged on for 2 months but then they finally came off.

It's been a year and a half now and I wear my retainer every night - but I also use it as a mouth guard because I grind like crazy.

Most orthodontists are competent and do a ton of braces every year - so as long as you feel comfortable and aren't getting a weird vibe I wouldn't worry. Make sure they are patient with you and answer all of your questions. I had good coverage (Delta Dental) and still had to pay a couple grand for my treatment, and then around 200 at the end for the retainers if I recall correctly.
posted by carmel at 5:48 PM on February 9


I had braces for 3+ years as an adult (after 2 years as a kid). My time in braces was longer than most, because I did in in conjunction with orthognathic surgery to correct an underlying bite problem that braces alone couldn't fix. If you have serious bite issues (in addition to just crooked teeth), then that might be an option that the orthodontist suggests for you, too.

Regarding your orthodontist: yeah, most of them do nothing but braces, so you should be able to get a fairly good vibe from your visit as to their patience, how busy they are, etc. You can check Yelp for reviews, and/or ask if they have any current or former patients you can talk to about their experiences. You might want to consult with a few different orthos to see if they all recommend similar courses of treatment. As for cost, I had good dental insurance and I also still wound up paying a few thousand out of pocket over the course of things, which is pretty standard -- even good dental insurance usually only pays a portion of the cost.

Assuming you don't get Invisalign: I had forgotten how much braces can hurt, especially at first. Adjustments (aka getting your braces tightened) can make you really sore for a few days, so be prepared with lots of Advil or Tylenol and soft foods. Also, wires and brackets will make the inside of your mouth pretty tender (especially at first), so you'll want some wax to put on them to lessen the irritation. Brushing and flossing get more challenging, so you'll want a good electric or sonic toothbrush plus a waterpik to keep everything clean. And be prepared to give up really crunchy and chewy/sticky foods for the duration (as well as any foods likely to cause stains, in the event you get clear (ceramic) brackets instead of metal).

Having said all that: it really wasn't much of a big deal, once I got used to them after the first month or so. And my boyfriend and I met while I still had them on, and he thought they were cute, so there's that.
posted by scody at 6:05 PM on February 9


Your orthodontist can tell you how prominent your braces appear. Before I got mine on, my orthodontist told me that just based on my lips and mouth shape they wouldn't be noticeable. And truly, they weren't. Toward the end of my treatment, I ran into a friend the orthodontist's office. My friend looked at me and said he'd never noticed my braces even though he saw me several times a week.
posted by 26.2 at 6:06 PM on February 9


what did you wish that you would have known before you started braces as an adult?

That it isn't always just a question of getting braces. If your teeth are crowded, you may need extractions to make room for the proper alignment braces will give you.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:14 PM on February 9


Seconding DarlingBri. I went to the orthodontist as an adult just thinking I needed braces but I also had to get four teeth removed and jaw surgery that required an overnight hospital stay. No regrets though.
posted by girlmightlive at 6:46 PM on February 9


i had braces as a teenager but i can tell you that as an adult i wish i had been more informed about the possibility of root resorption caused by the braces and how it is irreversible. just make sure you know all the risks out there before going into this. as a child i didn't know and wasn't able to make this choice for myself.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 6:57 PM on February 9


I had braces for three years at the age of 30: here's some stuff that may help you.

1) My expectations going in were a little out-of-whack. Somehow I'd assumed I'd come out with a perfect smile (like, bigger, squarer, whiter, less-variable teeth) -- which of course makes no sense. This was fine but it's probably worth aiming to be realistic.

2) It hurt more than I expected. It really is a very high level of pain, especially right after tightening, which IIRC happens every four weeks or so. I eventually developed a cadence where I'd eat difficult foods, try to get lots of work done etc., right before the tightening visits, because for a few days afterwards I was not at my best.

3) It took me a while to build up a bunch of kits for keeping my braces clean (tiny brushes and piks) and managing irritation (liberal application of wax). Until I had multiples of everything everywhere, I made a lot of unscheduled trips to the pharmacy at weird hours.

I don't really have any advice for you on orthodontist selection -- I'll just agree that it matters. I loved my guy, who did conservative, careful work for a flat fee of, in my case, something like 7K. I do know that in general for dental work you are looking for someone borderline OCD: if they strike you as fastidious, a little rigid, and obsessed with hygiene, that's good. Try to get a personal referral from someone who's a little fussy. And obviously aim to avoid anyone you fear will upsell you. Good luck.
posted by Susan PG at 8:07 PM on February 9


I had incredibly crooked teeth until I did invisalign in my early twenties. My recommendation would be to get several consultations. I saw a few orthodontists. One wanted to take out 8(!?) teeth. Another wanted to break my jaw and said treatment could take up to 5 years. Both said invisalign was out of the question.

I eventually found a practitioner affiliated with a university who taught other dentists and orthodontists how to use invisalign, so she had no problem taking on a more difficult case. It's been several years since I finished treatment and I couldn't be happier. (I didn't need to lose any teeth either).

In addition to getting several opinions, I'd also recommend not going with an older ortho. My experience was they can be stuck in their ways and not up to date on the most recent types of treatments.

If you go the invisalign route, make sure the person knows what they are doing. For a lot of people, it's a quick way to make money. I'd recommend searching for orthos affiliated with a university, or who teach others how to use invisalign.
posted by helloimjohnnycash at 8:21 PM on February 9


Finally! A question I can answer.

I had braces for three years starting when I was 29. Needed to have one extraction and the main reason it took so long was that I had a canine that needed to be exposed and pulled down from the roof of my mouth. The worst.

A couple of things I wish I knew:

- The check ups can be moderately painful. Take a painkiller (an acetaminophen or something) on your way to the orthodontist's office so the poking and prodding is less uncomfortable. The bonus is that after a few years in braces you'll have an incredible pain tolerance. Dentist visits are a cinch now.

- Lower teeth move much more quickly than uppers. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

- It's impossible to predict how quickly change will happen. It's normal that your ortho's estimate could be off by 6-12 months.

- Other people really won't care as much about your braces as you think they will.

- You'll have to carry a toothbrush with you pretty much all the time because food gets in all the cracks.

- YMMV when it comes to what you can and can't eat. I ate popcorn and Skittles and Starburst with impunity.

- One of the biggest parts of braces is long-term oral health: you're setting yourself up for an easier adulthood with fewer complications down the road.

- There's a web forum called the Metal Mouth Message Board where you find answers to a lot of questions, and see other people's progress photos and stories. I found it helpful in keeping me motivated.

Lastly, even with insurance, you're likely to have to pay a fair portion of it out-of-pocket. My insurance covered $3,500 of a $10,000 treatment. However, the $6,500 was worth it to me.

Like it or not, there's a societal bias towards people with straight teeth and big smiles that continues into the workplace (I bet there's a study somewhere, though I don't know where). I'm betting I can recoup my $6,500 investment through a work promotion or opportunity I wouldn't have gotten otherwise, and by being able to spend less money on oral care in my 50s and 60s. Here's hoping, anyway.
posted by lukez at 7:20 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I had braces as a kid and again as an adult. I found it much easier as an adult. Yeah, it hurt for a few days after getting them tightened, but it wasn't terrible. Getting poked by too-long wires was frustrating, but I got in the habit of just calling my orthodontist when that happened, and going by to have the extra snipped off real quick. (Way better than enduring that for another month.) It was surprisingly inexpensive, at least compared to what I expected—maybe $1,500. I paid extra for the white brackets, to make them less visible. And it was only my bottom teeth that needed adjusting (thanks to the eruption of wisdom teeth), which don't show much when I smile, so people often had no idea that I had braces.

To answer your question directly, I'm not sure that there was anything that I wished I'd known in advance. After your first round of tightening, you learn everything there is to know pretty quickly. From there, it's likely that same cycle (tighten, wait X weeks, tighten, wait X weeks...) over and over again.
posted by waldo at 2:14 PM on February 10


I've hated my teeth and been very self conscious about smiling for as long as I remember. Like lukez, I believe that healthy and attractive teeth are something that people notice straight way, whether it's conscious or not, and make judgments about the wearer's education, social status, and family background - even intelligence.

After years and years of putting it off due to cost, vanity and fear I got my adult braces (the super ugly metal ones too) about seven months ago. What I wish I knew before I got them is that it's really not that big a deal. Really. All that fear and self consciousness and pulling stupid faces in photos instead of smiling, or covering my mouth when I laughed could have been avoided if I had just sucked it up and got them fifteen years ago.

My braces were essentially torture the first few days but I did get used to them and haven't had any problems since. Sometimes they ache when I get them adjusted but nothing like the pain I was led to expect. And it's nothing compared to the thrill of watching my teeth change before my eyes. It's been much quicker than I expected and some weeks the change is very dramatic - one day I woke up and there was a gap between my front and formerly overlapping teeth. I've also found it much easier and more satisfying to brush my teeth. Not only because they're not all on top of each other anymore but because I'm more motivated.

Good luck!
posted by Wantok at 7:53 PM on February 10


I think one of the big benefits of Invisalign is that you can take it off and floss. When I had braces as a kid, Water Pik and other things weren't as common, so I don't think I took as good care of my gums as I should have. (Yet another gross-o thing about me that I probably shouldn't confess on the internet.) As an adult I loooove to floss, so I'd want to figure out how to get the gums and other nooks and crannies clean. I think the options for this have greatly improved since I had braces, with kits like SusanPG mentions.
posted by lillygog at 3:44 PM on February 12


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