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Guide to Tooth Alignment for Adults

Guide to Tooth Alignment for Adults


If you’re an adult considering treatment options for getting your teeth straightened — you’re in luck — because there are several available methods to look into to resolve a wide range of possible orthodontic issues. Whether you had braces earlier in life, have recently noticed a change in the placement of your teeth, or have an overbite that’s causing discomfort, more adults are seeking tooth straightening solutions than ever before.

Tooth straightening options for adults range from traditional metal braces all the way to invisible straightening aligners, with choices dependent on the type of problems you need to resolve. Of course, there are positives and negatives with each option, and your orthodontist will be able to guide you to the choice that’s best for you and your needs.

Let’s take a look at some of these options, the pros and cons associated with them, and how to talk to your orthodontist to get the answers you need.


Why More Adults Are Opting For a Straighter Smile

With the growing interest in health and wellbeing, more people are taking their dental health seriously. With clear aligner options such as Invisalign, it is more appealing than ever for adults to finally be able to have straighter teeth, after years of waiting. For some adults, they may have needed or wanted braces at a younger age, but didn’t have the financial freedom to get them.

Because of all of the available options for braces and teeth straighteners now, more adults are opting for orthodontic treatment. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists reported that 20 percent of orthodontic patients are over the age of 18.

Improved Appearance and Self-Esteem

Its makes sense that many people want to enhance their appearance by improving their smile. Teeth straightening for a brand new smile can transform your facial appearance completely. Our appearance can contribute greatly to how we feel about ourselves and how we present socially, so feeling confident with your appearance can help our self-esteem to soar. Having a healthy, great looking smile boosts your confidence in social situations and professional settings.


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Physical Health Benefits

Not only is teeth straightening aesthetically pleasing, it is also healthier. When your teeth are spaced too widely apart, your gums can become red and inflamed. Contrarily, if your teeth are crooked or over crowded they can be difficult to clean, leading to plaque build up and tooth decay. Therefore, straightening your smile can reduce health risks and improve oral hygiene.


Teeth Shift Over Time

While many children and teenagers are seen as candidates for braces or aligners, there are several reasons why adults might need their teeth straightened, too. Over the years, teeth can shift into new spaces and overlapping or crowded teeth can be difficult to clean during daily brushing.

Some adults that may have had braces during their childhood may see their teeth have shifted over time for different reasons. No matter the cause, this allows plaque to build-up and can lead to tooth decay and/or gum disease over time.


Resolve Jaw Problems

Braces are also a solution for jaw problems. When the teeth don’t come together correctly — such as a significant overbite or underbite — when the jaws close, this creates a “bad bite” (dentists call it malocclusion) and it can cause issues when chewing or swallowing. Of course, many adults may also seek teeth straightening aligners for cosmetic reasons. Your smile is a big part of your self-confidence. For many patients, teeth straighteners can resolve all of these issues. 


Tooth Straightening Options for Adults

There are many different teeth straightening options for adults today. Here are some of the available options:


Traditional Braces

Traditional, metal braces can correct many orthodontic issues and are sometimes covered by dental insurance. Traditional braces use metal brackets, wire and elastic bands to move the teeth into their proper places. While metal braces sometimes come with a negative connotation, they have changed over the years and are still an option because of how well they solve orthodontic issues.


Self-Ligating Braces

Self-ligating braces are similar to traditional braces, only they utilize a sliding device that holds the wire, instead of elastic bands. Traditional, self-ligating and lingual braces are all permanently on the teeth (until they are removed by a professional), so there’s no way of taking them off too long, or forgetting to put them back on like there might be with clear aligners.


Lingual Braces

Lingual braces are also similar to traditional braces, only the brackets attach to the backs of the teeth instead of the front. These are obviously less-visible than traditional braces, but not all orthodontists offer them.


Clear Aligners, Including Invisalign and SureSmile

Invisalign straightens your teeth using a custom-made series of clear aligners that specifically fit your teeth and your treatment plan. The Invisalign trays are created from smooth, comfortable plastic that fit over your teeth. Over time, they gradually move your teeth into place according to a plan from your orthodontist and Invisalign’s mapping technology. 

SureSmile is an advanced orthodontic treatment that utilizes 3D modeling of your mouth. These 3D models allow our orthodontists to identify the right tooth position for each patient, which provides a precise bite adjustment and takes less time (and fewer office visits) than traditional braces.


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The Pros & Cons of Tooth Straightening Aligners

Are tooth straightening aligners for you? There are several things to consider when making your decision, and depending on what issues you’re having, your orthodontist may be able to guide you to the right choice. Here are some pros and cons of tooth straightening aligners:


  • Clear aligners are not visible to most people like traditional, metal braces
  • They are often less-irritating for the cheeks and gums
  • They are removable, so you take them out before eating or drinking (unless it’s water)
  • The treatment times are usually shorter than those for traditional braces; between 6-18 months for aligners vs. 18-36 months for traditional braces (depending on the treatment you need)


  • You’ll have to brush your teeth every time you remove the trays
  • You have to keep them on for a specific amount of time every day in order to stay on track with your treatment plan.
  • They don’t solve as many tooth issues as traditional braces can.
  • While aligners don’t require “adjustments”, you will get new trays every few weeks to help your teeth move. These fittings may involve a visit to your orthodontist.


Questions to Ask Your Orthodontist About Tooth Straightening Aligners

If you visit your orthodontist for a consultation, they will likely walk you through your needs, a treatment plan, and answer all of your questions. But, here are some questions you might want to ask if the orthodontist doesn’t answer them first:


Q: Will straightening aligners work for my specific issue(s)? If not, what other options are available?

A: Straightening aligners don’t solve more complicated orthodontic issues, so depending on your specific needs, they may not be an option.


Q: How often will I have to visit the office during my treatment plan?

A: Just because these aren’t traditional braces that need adjusting, you’ll likely be making regular office visits to check on the progress of your treatment plan and make sure all of the new alignment trays fit properly.


Q: What is the best way to take care of my teeth during treatment?

A: Aligners are removed before eating, but they do require regular oral care and specific care of the trays to keep your teeth clean and healthy during treatment.


Q: Are teeth aligners painful?

A: While many patients say straightening aligners aren’t as painful as traditional braces, you are still moving your teeth, so you may experience discomfort.


Q: How long will my treatment plan take?

A: Your orthodontist will be able to outline a specific timeline for your treatment plan.


Q: How much will orthodontic treatment cost? Will any of it be covered by insurance?

A: Depending on your specific plan, your dentist will be able to estimate the cost, and might offer a payment plan. They can always check with your insurance to see if any of the treatment will be covered.


Q: Can I see some before/after pictures?

A: If you can look at pictures, you can get a better idea of what sort of results you can expect. There might be additional computer visualizations to look at, too.


Q: Will I need to wear a retainer after I finish treatment?

A: After all of the work you put in during treatment, you will want to make sure your teeth stay straight forever! Your orthodontist will be able to outline options and recommendations for a retainer.


UIC College of Dentistry Orthodontics

At the UIC College of Dentistry Orthodontics Clinic, we provide comprehensive treatment for bite problems and misaligned teeth and jaws. We offer a free initial examination to determine your needs, create a treatment plan and outline a cost estimate.

We offer a wide range of orthodontic services to treat misaligned teeth and jaws, including:

  • Regular/standard metal braces, clear braces and self-ligating braces from a range of manufacturers and companies.
  • Invisible (clear aligner trays) including Invisalign
  • Computer-driven appliances including SureSmile and Insignia
  • Comprehensive orthodontic treatment
  • Hidden (lingual) braces, including 3M Incognito and Harmony 

At our clinic, we use 3D imaging technology to detect and diagnose any potential problems. These images also allow us to share the scan with our patient so they can better understand their oral health. We offer the latest in invisible and computer-driven orthodontic solutions, such as Invisalign, self-ligating brackets and SureSmile.

UIC orthodontists are also using an innovative Dental Monitoring system that tracks patients’ progress remotely, using a smartphone app. The patients can log into the app, while our team can view an online dashboard to monitor progress. Request a smile consultation at the UIC College of Dentistry today!

Request a smile consultation