Though typically associated with “the growing years,” orthodontic braces are becoming increasingly common in those patients entering “the golden years.” Following the nationwide upward trend in plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures among patients over 65, more seniors are finding an array of benefits from getting braces.
So what are the benefits for seniors who get braces?
Health concerns are among the top motivators influencing seniors to get braces. San Diego-based Orthodontist and member of the California Association of Orthodontists, Dr. Robert Sunstein treats older patients who are looking to decrease the effects of sleep apnea or diabetes, or to correct Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ), an inflammation of the jaw joint that predominantly effects older women, through correcting their teeth and jaw alignment with braces.
Appearance isn’t completely irrelevant, though. In addition to health related motives, many seniors seek braces to create a more youthful look and, Dr. Sunstein reminds, “to get the added benefit of having a beautiful smile made up of their own teeth.” Further, it is a more pleasant way to go about cosmetic enhancement. Like other non-invasive treatments on the market today, with Botox, fillers, skin peels and laser treatment becoming more affordable and available, braces are in a similar vein with regard to effectiveness and level of risk.
And, while more invasive plastic surgery operations carry a notable increase in risk for older patients due to the likelihood of baseline medical problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, orthodontic work posts much less threat to health. No anesthesia is needed to fit braces or dental implants, appointments are not lengthy and internal organs are completely out of harm’s way during the procedure. Dr. Sunstein assures his patients that there is no increased risk in getting braces later in life. At most, the procedures can be tiring, with one 84-year-old patient opting to go home for a nap before returning and finishing the adjustment.
However, anyone that experienced braces as a teenager knows that they are not a quick fix. The brackets will need a few months to do their job, with frequent adjustments done by an orthodontist throughout the treatment. With the time commitment, patients want to know that braces will be effective and that the results will last. Orthodontist Dr. Jenny Chung adds that, in some instances, a person’s facial profile can change as a result of orthodontic treatment, so the cosmetic enhancements from braces may go beyond the mouth.
Dr. Sunstein wants patients to know that, ultimately, their patience will pay off. Unlike procedures such as face lifts, breast augmentation or liposuction, where results can vary for patients of different ages and sizes, Sunstein states that “patients can expect their results with braces to be effective at any age.” As long as the gums are healthy and teeth are well taken care of, there is no reason why an adult aged 40, all the way up to 100, couldn’t achieve straight teeth with braces.
Having an effective oral care routine and maintaining a healthy mouth is key for anyone wanting to fit braces or get implants like veneers. Regular visits to a dentist, brushing and flossing twice a day and ensuring the regular intake of vital vitamins and minerals can aid that, giving anyone the option of having a beautiful, pain-free smile.
“Our attention to health and fitness has never been higher,” says Bay Area orthodontist and California Association of Orthodontists member Dr. Michael Ricupito. “A healthy mouth with straight teeth never fails to add to ones’ quality of life and really, no age is too old for braces.”
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