Brace Yourself
Through advances in orthodontic treatment, people of all ages are gaining healthier smiles—and happier lives—easier than ever before
by Jennifer Updike

Orthodontic treatment in the care of a skilled professional certainly does not come free, but the beautiful smile that inevitably results is priceless. Just ask anyone—adults, especially—who has benefited from the application of traditional braces or other orthodontic appliances about the positive, long-lasting effects of treatment.

After all, a healthy bite—straight teeth that properly meet opposing teeth in the opposite jaw—produces advantages far beyond the bounds of facial aesthetics. If one’s teeth are too crowded, protrusive, spaced too far apart or otherwise meet in an abnormal way, it makes it more difficult to bite, chew and speak. Furthermore, orthodontic problems can lead to potential health risks, such as obstructive sleep apnea, later on in life.

Although braces have traditionally been thought of as something for kids, adults now play an increasingly vital part of most orthodontists’ practices. The reason is simple: Orthodontic treatment can contribute to significant improvements in adults’ lives, both personally and professionally. So said respondents to a new study conducted on behalf of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), among individuals who, as adults, had orthodontic treatment.

Seventy-five percent of adults surveyed reported improvements in career or personal relationships, which they attributed to their improved smile in the aftermath of treatment. Eighty-seven percent of those ages 18 to 34 reported increased success with personal relationships after treatment. It’s not necessarily the smile itself that’s responsible for such positive changes; more so, it is the shift in self-perception that tends to occur when someone looks in the mirror every day to see a smile of which they are proud. More than 90 percent of survey respondents said they would recommend orthodontic treatment to other adults, citing improved self-confidence. Younger adults, in their 20s, report the most favorable results among the adult population.

This may be one reason why more adults than ever before find themselves in orthodontists’ offices. The number of adult patients who received orthodontic treatment increased 14 percent from 2010 to 2012, climbing to a record high of more than 1.2 million patients ages 18 and older. More and more men are opting for treatment, according to a recent AAO study, which suggested 44 percent of adult patients were male, a 29 percent increase over survey results from just two years earlier.

Of course, it’s not just adults who are clamoring for treatment to enhance their smiles. In 2012, AAO members reported treating more than 5.8 million patients of all ages, an increase of 20 percent as compared to 2010. Some orthodontists suggest that more families are coming in to receive orthodontic treatment as a family unit—adults choosing to have treatment at the same time as their children.

The process of attaining a perfect smile is now much friendlier to patients, thanks in part to the increasing number of orthodontic treatments, as well as the technologies and other advances behind these treatments. Progress has come in several different areas, from the materials used in traditional braces to the technologies utilized to plot out patients’ treatment plans.  

Traditional orthodontics: What was once a burden for children and teens has since become a rite of passage to be enjoyed, saying, “I can’t wait to get braces!” Traditional braces have become smaller and less intrusive. Some patients opt for clear, nearly invisible options, though many choose colored braces and bands that draw attention to their orthodontics. In all, treatment times have declined considerably, due to improvements in understanding and various supplemental treatments.

Invisalign: These clear, plastic aligners used to bring teeth into their proper position without traditional orthodontics continue to improve, with options for teens and adults. Orthodontists who have received the proper Invisalign training provide custom aligners as part of a personalized treatment plan, based on X-rays and impressions of the teeth. Once the patient receives the aligners, he or she simply wears them throughout the day and removes them when eating, brushing or flossing. With each set of aligners, with different stages of treatment spaced every two weeks, the teeth gently and gradually begin to shift into their proper place.

AcceleDent: Only a select number of orthodontic practices in the Philadelphia area are able to treat patients with AcceleDent, which acts as a supplement to other orthodontic treatment with the goal of reducing overall treatment time. This FDA-approved technology features a mouthpiece that uses a built-in activator that sends carefully calibrated micropulses to the patient’s mouth to accelerate the movement of orthodontics-guided teeth.

iTero intra-oral digital scanning system: This technology has proven helpful in orthodontics, as well as in matters of restorative dentistry. The system enables orthodontists to take 3-D digital scans of patients’ teeth and bite, which are then used to make adjustments. Orthodontists—and, more importantly, their patients—suggest the technology is a marked improvement over traditional impressions, which most patients disliked because of the gag-inducing “goop” used in the trays that the patient would have to put in his or her mouth. The technology also enables an orthodontist to produce an approximation of tooth movement so a patient can see the expected outcome of his or her treatment.

Cone beam computed tomography: The introduction of CBCT technology to dentistry and orthodontics has helped to revolutionize the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of orthodontic patients. It has been especially helpful in giving orthodontics improved knowledge in regard to patients’ tooth position. Because the 3D imaging allows for views of a patient’s mouth from all possible angles, orthodontists have a comprehensive understanding of how to proceed with treatment.

Although some aspects of orthodontics may be unpleasant, anyone considering orthodontic treatment to correct a crooked smile can take heart in knowing that these improvements, among others, have made the process as painless and comfortable as possible, not to mention quicker than ever before.

The American Dental Association recommends children consult with an orthodontist between the ages of 7 and 11. For adults, the timeline is much more fluid. Some orthodontists have reported treating patients in their 60s, 70s and even older. After all, a great smile shouldn’t come with an expiration date.

In Alignment
In a months-long poll, Philadelphia Life and Suburban Life asked readers to tell us which orthodontic and dental professionals they turn to when it comes to perfecting smiles for patients of all ages. Whether it’s traditional orthodontics, Invisalign or another supplemental treatment option, these men and women provide the expert care needed to provide the best and healthiest smile possible.

Dr. Anne D. Angle
Angle Orthodontics

Dr. Steven Appel
Appel Orthodontics

Dr. Andrew Appel
Appel Orthodontics

Dr. Paul Carpinello
Paul Carpinello, D.M.D.

Dr. Benjamin A. Cassalia
Benjamin A. Cassalia, D.M.D.

Dr. Steven M. Cohen
Steven M. Cohen, D.M.D., M.S.D.

Dr. Marianna Evans
Infinity Dental Specialists
Newtown Square

Dr. Tanja J. de Marsche
Roberts & de Marsche Orthodontics

Dr. Catherine M. Foote
Foote Orthodontics
Bryn Mawr

Dr. Amanda Franks
Benjamin A. Cassalia, D.M.D.

Dr. Julian D. Freeman
Supersonic Orthodontics

Dr. Cathleen George
Cathleen George, D.M.D., P.C.

Dr. Peter M. Greco
Jefferson University Hospitals

Dr. Sam Kadan
Sam Kadan, D.M.D.

Dr. LynAnn Mastaj
Mastaj Orthodontics
Bryn Mawr

Dr. Vincent D. Mongiovi
Mongiovi Orthodontics
Chadds Ford

Dr. William W. Roberts
Roberts & de Marsche Orthodontics

Dr. Randolph E. Schader
Newtown Dentistry for Kids/Newtown Orthodontics

Dr. David Stall
David Stall Dental
West Chester

Dr. Orhan C. Tuncay
Rittenhouse Orthodontics

Dr. Todd M. Welsh
Bucks County Orthodontics

Dr. Adam Weiss
Adam Weiss, D.M.D., P.C.
King of Prussia

Dr. James S. Wilkes
Wilkes and Buttenbaum Orthodontics