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For many families, having a child in braces is sort of a dental rite of passage. But for adults who never had braces or those who need some extra orthodontic help, it’s really not too late to make it happen.

Sonni Pellillo, an orthodontist with Ashby Park Family Orthodontics, said it is not uncommon for braces to become a family affair.

“Some adults may have never had the opportunity to have treatment,” she said. “They might have a deep bite or an overbite that sometimes impairs their function.”

Some parents decide to get braces because they find it difficult to bite or because of aesthetics – they want to straighten their teeth. Some find it necessary to correct sleep disorders, which may require a sleep study for diagnosis.

“They might be suffering sleep apnea without knowing it,” Pellillo said. “A lot of times, that may be a function of how their jaws line up.”

Adults who have a lot of wear on their teeth due to grinding might benefit from braces if the problem is related to their bite.

Even adults who had braces earlier in life may find that they need a correction. And if that retainer was left at summer camp or got thrown out with a high school lunch tray, Pellillo said adults might simply need a new retainer or, if they still have one, a recheck to make sure it still fits.

“Some people have had braces, but teeth do tend to shift over time,” she said.

While children sometimes need orthodontic appliances, Pellillo said those are typically related to growth and won’t be part of adult orthodontic treatment.

“Most of what we do is adjusting the teeth,” she said. “Once growth is done, we can’t really do anything about that.”

For adults who do need braces, there are several options. Pellillo said they can get traditional metal braces, clear braces or Invisalign, which involves the use of clear, removable aligners. There is a cost difference, but it will likely amount to a few hundred dollars overall, according to Pellillo. Not surprisingly, most adults find the clear aligners to be a popular choice.

“We have a digital scanner that eliminates the gooey impressions,” Pellillo said. “It scans the jaw and teeth and their bite relationship.”

From that scan, a prescription is created to fix the problem and patients get a virtual demonstration of what they can expect their teeth to do with each tray. Tooth-colored attachments may be put on the teeth to help them grip the tray and get the desired movement. Pellillo said patients usually wear a tray for two weeks before switching to the next one in their treatment. A visit to the orthodontist is needed every six to eight weeks to monitor progress. The length of treatment varies depending on the problem being corrected.

But no matter what form of treatment is chosen, Pellillo said adults can see results.

“It’s never too late,” she said. “I think they will feel like it was worth it.”

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