Do I need braces?
February 22, 2014 9:15 PM   Subscribe

I've been thinking about getting braces. 80% for cosmetic reasons, 10% because they feel very slightly annoying, 10% possible health benefits. My free UK NHS dentist says I don't need them, it's an unnecessary risk and the treatment can go wrong. My private, fee paying dentist says it's a great idea if I can afford it, it's good for health too. The money isn't an issue, but I really don't like the idea of spending a year or more in the docks. here is a pic. Frank opinions welcome. Adjusted for English standards!
posted by molloy to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Borderline. Not that bad, could be worse. I think it's a personal choice. Not sure what health benefits are being referred to.
posted by Dansaman at 9:21 PM on February 22, 2014

I had braces when I was in middle and high school (braces for about 3 years and a retainer for 3 years after that, I was 12 -18) and my bottom row teeth look like yours. I originally had braces to correct serious overcrowding and an overbite, both of which are health issues, but the slight crowding that i have now is due to me realizing in college that my orthodontist wanted me to keep a permanent retainer on my bottom teeth, which i did not want at all. i told them to take it off, and that is my result. So if you decide to get braces, there is a real possibility of having a bottom retainer permanently to keep those teeth from moving.
posted by ruhroh at 9:32 PM on February 22, 2014

My bottom teeth are worse than yours in terms of overcrowding, and I did get braces in my 20s (never had them as a kid) for cosmetic reasons. They looked really nice at the end of the 2 years of painful braces-wearing, but after I was given a retainer and told to wear it 24/7 to keep them from shifting. I did moderately well with that for a while but honestly? It got pretty old. I stopped wearing the retainer and sure enough, within a few years my teeth were back to their original crookedness. Oh well.

My orthodontist told me that braces as an adult run this risk because your palate has already sorta set in place, so you basically have to constantly push against that with retainers. When you're a kid your palate is softer and you can put the teeth where you want them before the palate sets, and then you aren't as dependent on a retainer to keep it that way.

The only "health issue" that comes with my overbite, as far as I can tell, is that I need to be more diligent about flossing because they are crowded together enough that things get stuck in between easily.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:50 PM on February 22, 2014

My UK bias and I wouldn't bother. I would ask your fee-pay dentist what's possible in terms of cosmetically evening the bottom ones, or ideally just reducing the profile of your right lateral incisor (which will even the entire bottom out), but other than that I wouldn't spend the money, even for vanity.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:50 PM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely personal choice territory. My wife had teeth of a similar alignment; she is currently about 3/4 of the way through realignment using Invisalign and it's been fantastic for her. More expensive than normal braces, and they come with their own upkeep challenges, but you might find they present a good mid-point for getting your teeth fixed and not spending a year or more with a mouthful of metal.
posted by not the fingers, not the fingers at 9:54 PM on February 22, 2014

Unless you're considering a career as a tooth model, they are just fine, aesthetically. Some people even prefer some degree of imperfection in the dental department. If it really makes you self-conscious or something, then go ahead. I, personally, would not find your teeth at all noticeable or objectionable.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 10:07 PM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had eight years of orthodontics (ages 8-16) and am very grateful... I *needed* it.
I think your teeth look fine.

Like ruhroh, I quit wearing my retainer in my late teens when "wear for a year" became two years, and then became forever. My bottom teeth are a little crooked now, by my top teeth still look perfect (despite a wisdom tooth coming in!). My top teeth were a zillion times more f*cked up than yours though, and if they'd started to move, I can't tell you how fast I would've been back all over my retainer/braces/whatever. It was bad.

Again, I think your teeth look great. Pretty damn straight, nicely sized/shaped, and clean/healthy. Clean and healthy go a long way. Unless you want to be a model, I wouldn't worry about it!

Two of my aunts have had braces as older adults - they'd always wanted them, could finally afford it, etc. I can't tell the difference. The one using Invisalign had to avoid all her favorite foods due to staining etc and as a result lost a lot of weight that she probably didn't really need to. Red wine, coffee, chocolate... so there's that, too.
posted by jrobin276 at 10:41 PM on February 22, 2014

It's really up to you and if it affects your confidence. They do have braces that are less noticeable for adults so you probably won't need a mouth full of metal.

It looks like the bottom row is where they are very crowded, so it's possible you could get away with only doing the bottom. Would be up to what the orthodontist says. I had a gap in my front teeth and thought my orthodontist could just push those two teeth together and call it a day, but he actually ended up doing a serious rearranging of my teeth. Granted, I was 14 and didn't really say anything to him about my opinions. I had an overbite and my teeth were smaller than my mouth, so I had a lot of extra room for my teeth to move around. A bar on my top row (behind the teeth, no one can see it and I still have it to this day) plus adding some fake tooth to make my canines wider ended up being necessary.

If you do get braces, I'd recommend checking out a nearby dental school. I went to my local university because my mom didn't have a lot of money, and it was much cheaper than going to an established private practice. Yes, a few times over my years of seeing my doctor, he brought students over to look at what he did to my teeth (I believe my doctor was a student who had graduated and was doing residency), but it was fine. My teeth turned out great.

For the record, I have definitely seen worse teeth than yours. As someone who cares a lot about teeth, yours wouldn't be a dealbreaker for me. Also, I think the bottom teeth and probably less visible than the top teeth, at least when you smile.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:56 PM on February 22, 2014

I think you should straighten the uppers-the lowers less important. I have a friend in his early 40's who had invisible braces (not completely invisible but clear) and teeth were straightened in a year - made a big difference to his GF and others. He does look better. Teeth are one of the most noticeable things about your appearance and people notice.
posted by claptrap at 12:20 AM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not sure what health benefits are being referred to.

Overcrowded teeth can't be cleaned properly (not enough space for an interdental brush or even floss) and are more susceptible to decay. Obviously YMMV.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:06 AM on February 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

This UK eye says don't bother, I really think they look fine - they are pretty much as good as my teeth after braces.

I had braces for two years as a teenager and another 1-2 years of full time retainer wearing, plus another couple after that of wearing the retainer at night, If I woke up tomorrow with my teeth back the way they were before treatment (which was worse than yours) I would not go through it again.

I may not be the most unbiased view as I seem to have found having braces more painful than most people but the frequent headaches (including constant headaches for the few days after each tightening), pain from the wires cutting into my cheeks (I still have scars inside my mouth >15 years later) and inability to eat what I wanted, including something as simple as an apple was just not worth it. I used to dream about being in pain from the retainer 4-5 years after I stopped wearing it.

It also left me with a mistrust of dentists - my private orthodontist told me 18 months for the braces and then spent another 6 months saying "just a couple more months" until I eventually insisted they come off at the two year mark He also said that one particularly crooked tooth had been overcorrected, whereas I knew it was one that had snapped back into it's old position when a bracket came unglued (feeling your tooth move 1-2 mm in seconds is... odd). This may have been due to genuine keenness to do a good job, but he was being paid pretty well and it was hard not to suspect that didn't at least encourage longer treatment,
posted by *becca* at 5:09 AM on February 23, 2014

My teeth were much less crooked but my bite was very uncomfortable, so I recently spent a year and a half in clear aligners. No pain, great results - I am very pleased! I'm still wearing the retainers all the time, but I barely notice them because I'm so used to it.

My dental insurance paid for half the cost so the end price was very reasonable for my budget.

But for full disclosure, I'm American and I have a thing about crooked teeth.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:57 AM on February 23, 2014

American woman with a bias about UK teeth checking in.

Your teeth look fine to me. If they thrust your jaw out of alignment or if individual teeth poked out then maybe do it. But I wouldn't bother.

I never had braces but my sibling did. Mine are straight enough and I don't regret not being put through all that.
posted by vincele at 6:50 AM on February 23, 2014

I got braces, top and bottom, in my late 20s/early 30s. The crookedness didn't bother me that much, but the way my bottom teeth hit my top teeth was making them chip and crack. The trade off was that once my teeth were straightened, my jaws no longer aligned nicely, and I've had TMJ issues since then. Maybe in a perfect world, the orthodontic work would have prevented that, but in reality, messing with your teeth is complicated and I wouldn't recommend opening that can of worms for purely cosmetic reasons. Especially since people are saying your teeth aren't bad (I can't see the image myself).
posted by Kriesa at 7:15 AM on February 23, 2014

Just wanted to add, if your teeth are only a bit crooked, you should research composite bonding to make them look straight. I got my teeth bonded after my braces to fix the structural damage that had already been done, and I am 100% happy with that work. It would be way cheaper and more painless than braces.

I'm not sure what health issues your dentist is saying could be corrected. Do your teeth make it hard to floss or something?
posted by Kriesa at 8:37 AM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, gingivitis has been correlated with heart disease, so if diligent cleaning is an issue, that's one health argument. Another might be digestion -- some people can't chew properly -- but it doesn't seem like that would be an issue for you. Grinding and jaw pain are the last health reasons I can think of, if those are things you deal with.

For aesthetics, bonding could work and if your dentist thinks it would be a good idea for you, s/he could file a couple of teeth down (a really minimal amount, mms). I think you look fine, though :)

(I had braces as a child for an overbite and also have a few pulp stones, which make anesthetizing areas around certain teeth extremely difficult -- it's not at all clear that these facts are related but they might be.)

not a dentist
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:48 AM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might want to check out Invisalign rather than traditional metal braces.
posted by slkinsey at 12:55 PM on February 23, 2014

I think your teeth look fine. I wouldn't even begin to bother for cosmetic reasons if it were me.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:04 PM on February 23, 2014

I did Invisalign recently. It was pretty easy, and took a year. You take the aligners out for meals, then brush your teeth and put the aligners back in afterwards. Nobody every noticed I was wearing them.
posted by w0mbat at 3:55 PM on February 23, 2014

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