More adults are getting braces, here’s the clear way to your best smile

man with braces
Valley News/Adobestock photo

AVENTURA, Fla. – About 4 million Americans wear braces, but braces aren’t just for children anymore. Adults account for over 1 million orthodontic patients in the U.S., according to the American Association of Orthodontics.

“One of the biggest benefits

of tooth alignment at any age is that your teeth will not only look better, but they’ll feel better, too,” Dr. Rick Mars, a general dentist and the author of “The Big Smile: The Principles of Modern Dentistry – for Dentists and Patients.” “For adults, it’s a second chance to achieve a bright smile and enhance their long-term dental health. Most people don’t realize that teeth do not age, they wear out. Teeth that are aligned properly should last a lifetime if properly maintained. With clear aligner systems, the stigma of adult orthodontics is a thing of the past.

“Orthodontics has evolved to a point where it’s never too late to get your teeth aligned. But considering all that’s required to make the process a success, a patient must become educated before the treatment and invest the time throughout it,” he said.

Mars offered the following thoughts for adults to keep in mind if they are considering getting braces:

The process does not have to take longer for adults.

“On average, adolescents wear braces for 16 to 18 months,” Dr. Mars says. “Adults on average wear clear aligners by Invisalign for approximately six months. Long, extended treatment is a thing of the past in most cases.”

Be careful about do-it-yourself aligners.

“Taking the cheapest route possible is not the best option,” Mars said.

Do-it-yourself braces – mail-ordered clear aligners applied at home – are less expensive than traditional braces and growing in popularity, but they pose significant hazards. The American Dental Association and the American Association of Orthodontists have issued consumer warnings against DIY braces.

“Do-it-yourself braces is a process that is potentially very harmful to the patient,” Mars said. “Unsupervised care can lead to tooth extractions, jaw or bite issues and infections. Trained professionals understand all the details about the way gums, bones and teeth move during treatment, and they are the only ones qualified to safely and effectively shift your teeth. It’s simply not worth the risk to do clear aligners yourself in order to save a few bucks.”

Choose the braces that best fit each person.

The average cost for braces is between $3,000-$7,000, and the types of braces have expanded in recent years. As an example, Invisalign features aligners that are clear and fit snugly over the teeth, allowing comfortable and predictable tooth movement.

“Many adults prefer them because they are virtually invisible when worn and removable,” Mars said. “Each aligner is designed to shift your teeth slightly into the desired position.”

Traditional options remain but are not the first choice of most adult patients. Metal braces are made from a high-grade stainless steel and are the most common form of orthodontic treatment. Clear ceramic brackets create a much less noticeable appearance, but break more easily compared to metal braces. Lingual braces have brackets on the back of a patient’s teeth but are more difficult to properly clean.

Aligners take more diligence.

“Aligners need to be worn 20 to 22 hours each day,” Mars said. “You take them out to eat and brush your teeth, but leaving them off too long will hinder the results. Bottom line, if you wear the aligners, they work wonderfully.

“To give yourself the best chance for success, regular checkups are a must, no matter how busy your schedule is. Your dentist will make important adjustments and check for issues. Follow your dentist’s orders on foods to avoid. Proper brushing and flossing will help you get a bright smile when you finally have the braces removed,” Mars said.

Dr. Rick Mars is a general dentist and the author of “The Big Smile: The Principles of Modern Dentistry – for Dentists and Patients.” Mars has practiced patient-centered dentistry in the Miami area for over three decades. Mars is an Invisalign Platinum Plus Provider and has lectured internationally on Invisalign for over a decade. While he practices family dentistry, he also places an emphasis on cosmetic dentistry. Mars was voted one of America’s Top Dentists for Invisalign, cosmetic and implant dentistry by Consumers’ Research Council of America, has been named Invisalign GP Faculty Member of the Year and was also awarded the distinction of master faculty at the annual Invisalign faculty meeting. He attended Emory University for his undergraduate education and Georgetown University School of Dentistry for his doctorate of dental surgery. For more information, visit