How Adult Orthodontics is Different

Adult Orthodontics in Vacaville, CA - Natalie Yang Orthodontics


Adult orthodontics is a bit different than kids’ or teens’ treatments.  Teeth in adults can move a bit differently and treatment plans may not be the same, even with the same kind of bite or crowding.   For example, a child is still growing, and an adult has already finished development.  As you age, your bone quality & health of your teeth may change.  Let’s look at some factors that an adult may encounter that you usually do not see in kids.


Teeth move slower in adults

Your bone typically becomes more dense as you get older. This makes it more difficult to move teeth, as your bone needs to remodel for your teeth to move.   Genetics plays a role, too.  Some people have much denser bone than others. If that is the case, teeth have a harder time moving. What this means is that orthodontic treatment may take longer for an adult than it does for children.


Adults are not growing

When growth stops, it may be more difficult to correct certain kinds of issues.  For example, an overbite may be more easily corrected as a child.  However, this does not mean that you cannot fix these issues as an adult.  You may still be able to fix these issues, but your orthodontic treatment plan will be different.  Talk to your orthodontist to find out how easily your dental issue can be corrected.  You can also click the links to learn more about early treatment in kids or adolescent treatment.


This person has missing teeth and worn-down teeth from years of chewing and grinding. The orthodontist will plan side-by-side with the general dentist to ensure the best overall result.

Adults have more esthetic concerns

Adults may have more esthetic concerns with their teeth. They may have missing, chipped, broken, or discolored teeth.  Adults may want veneers after their treatment is complete, or they may have plans for crowns or implants.  When adults have all these different needs, it will affect the type of treatment & length of orthodontic treatment needed.  Your orthodontist will need to coordinate with your general dentist to devise a proper treatment plan that will be effective and timely.


Compliance affects treatment length

Adults will typically be more compliant with orthodontic treatment, especially since they will likely pay for treatment themselves. They tend to wear rubber bands when told to do so and wear aligners as instructed and keep their teeth very clean. This tends to speed up treatment compared to a teenager who does not follow instructions or brush their teeth.  Of course, this all depends on the individual person!


Periodontal disease & bone loss may complicate treatment

This person has lost about 1/3 of their bone level. The white line is where healthy bone should be. The red line is where the bone is currently. Orthodontic treatment will be trickier and riskier, especially if there is active disease.

Periodontal disease is the loss of bony support around the tooth.  According to the CDC, 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease. That is why it is very important for you to be up to date with your dental cleanings & exams, and to continue going to the dentist regularly during orthodontic treatment.  If too much bone is lost, your tooth will become wiggly and is at risk for falling out.  Loss of bone can compromise tooth movement in several ways:

  • Less predictable tooth movement
  • Slower or faster tooth movement
  • Risk of additional bone loss
  • Risk of black triangles
  • Risk of need for gum grafts
  • Severe bone loss can be a contraindication for orthodontic treatment.


Medical issues can affect tooth movement

Adults usually have more health issues.  Health issues can affect how teeth move.  This includes any past or current medications.  Be sure to tell your orthodontist if you have any health issues so they may give you the best treatment plan possible. 


These are only a few of the ways adult orthodontics is different.  If you have any specific questions, contact your orthodontist.  They will be able to go into more detail at your initial consultation. At our office, the consult is free.