It’s Never Too Late for Straight Teeth

Here, five things to think about if you’re over 50 and considering braces


These days it seems every 20-something has perfectly straight teeth. Yet we Baby Boomers grew up in a time when braces were primarily reserved for the worst cases – kids with buck teeth or massive gaps. Slightly crooked teeth were the norm, something you just lived with.

Well, not anymore. Increasingly, people of all ages are opting for million dollar smiles and perfectly aligned teeth.

“Adult orthodontic treatments have really expanded in the last 10 to 15 years,” says Dr. Helene Grubisa, an Oakville, Ontario-based orthodontist and the president of the Canadian Association of Orthodontists.

According to some estimates 20 to 25 per cent of orthodontic patients are adults and more than half of them are women.

If you’re considering getting braces here are five things Dr. Grubisa says you should think about:

1) Your lifestyle: Ask yourself if you can take the time for regular appointments, for example. If you plan to be away for half the year it would obviously make it difficult to get to the orthodontist. And from an aesthetic perspective, if you’re still working would you be comfortable sporting braces in the workplace?

2) The health of your teeth and gums: “This is a valid consideration whether you’re 12 or 70,” says Dr. Grubisa. Healthy teeth and gums are always important, but even receding gum lines and some bone loss – common among Boomers – are manageable. “Mild, under-control, well-maintained changes in gum support and bone are completely acceptable for orthodontic treatment, as long as you have good oral hygiene, good maintenance and regular care,” she says. “Very few people are disqualified from the opportunity to get braces.”

3) Orthodontics before dental prosthetics: If you’re planning on getting a crown, veneers, implants or bridges, it’s best to do the braces first, so your teeth are properly aligned. Think of it as prep work. “This is so the orthodontist can optimize the placements for these things and set up the best possible framework,” explains Dr. Grubisa.

4) Get ready for lots of choice: The technology of orthodontics has changed significantly in the past 35 or 40 years. There are more choices and the treatments are better and more comfortable than they used to be. The days of ‘metal mouth’ are over. Traditional-style braces are now smaller, less visible, the wires much gentler and there are generally fewer required visits to the orthodontist, says Dr. Grubisa. There are also the clear liner options, such as Invisalign, which have no wires or brackets and are almost invisible, as well as removable for eating, brushing and flossing. “The clear liners are particularly appealing to people who don’t want to be wearing braces, say, during a business lunch.” Another option is lingual braces, which are placed on the inside surfaces of the teeth so they’re barely visible. These tend to be the most costly.

5) Interactions with medications: Some medications, like anti-inflammatory drugs or certain osteoporosis medicines can have an effect on treatment and the movement of teeth, so it’s important to talk to an orthodontist about what you’re taking.

As for cost, it all depends on how long you have to wear braces, the severity of the problem and the type of braces you choose. Generally speaking, you can expect to pay somewhere in the range of $5,000 and up. According to the Canadian Dental Association, most people end up wearing braces for about two years.

“It used to be an orthodontist’s office was full of 12- to 14-year-olds, but not anymore” says Dr. Grubisa. “Lots of adults in their 50s, 60 and even some in their 70s are undergoing orthodontic treatment.”