A lifelong desire to have a perfect smile of healthy, white teeth is the reason more adults are looking to have orthodontic treatment when they couldn’t as a child, says Dr Phil Green – a local member of the New Zealand Association of Orthodontists (NZAO).
“We’re seeing patients who would have liked to have had braces when they were young, but family circumstances just didn’t allow it,” he said.
“Now with careers and incomes of their own, many patients are seeing the very real benefits of orthodontic care in their early 20s right through to their 50s.”
A national survey commissioned by the NZAO, confirmed the growing trend with 76 per cent of its members experiencing an increase in the number of adults seeking orthodontic treatment, particularly adults aged 20-30 and 45-55.
New, less visually intrusive devices mean orthodontic treatment is no longer synonymous with a “mouth full of metal train tracks” and better payment options are making orthodontic treatment more affordable, says Dr Green.
“More and more adult patients are recognising that improving their smile can have a major impact on their self-confidence. The embarrassment factor has always been a consideration for adult patients, however with the range of options available today, including clear aligners, many people can have their teeth straightened without anyone even knowing.”
According to the national NZAO survey of its members, other common reasons adults are seeking orthodontic treatment were due to wanting to improve their personal hygiene and increase their career opportunities.
“A beautiful smile is becoming part of a lifestyle investment for young professionals, like a gym membership.”
Malcom Gladwell, one of the world’s top social scientists and writer of popular non-fiction books including David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, argues that teeth are becoming a new benchmark of inequality in modern society.
He says young professionals are facing a society that is becoming increasingly dependent, not on education or upbringing, but on the state of teeth, and those with bad teeth are given a lower chance of success.
His comments follow an increasing trend of celebrities and reality TV stars who are paying to have work done on their teeth in order to achieve the cosmetic benefits of the perfect Hollywood smile.
Dr Green says invisible aligners that are worn throughout the day are gaining in popularity internationally and in New Zealand.
“Clear aligners are appropriate for some situations but the best results can be achieved under the care of a specialist orthodontist using conventional, stainless steel braces which are smaller and more comfortable than in the past,” he said.
However he cautions people considering having their teeth straightened using non-traditional methods to consult a specialist.
“These appliances do have their limitations and NZAO specialists have the training and expertise to recognise and inform patients of this.”
He says in-line with these new technologies is a worrying trend that they can be promoted by practitioners who aren’t fully qualified.
“We frequently find ourselves having to break the news to adult patients that clear aligners for example, won’t fix their particular problem. That’s why it’s extremely important to see a specialist orthodontist because they have the knowledge and training to advise on the full range of options and treatments.”
Dr Green says straightening teeth is just one part of the process as correcting a patient’s bite is essential for maintaining healthy teeth and protecting their investment.
“Helping people achieve straight teeth and an ideal bite ensures that the teeth wear evenly with time, and in some cases correcting a patient’s bite prevents premature wear and shortening of the upper and lower front teeth,” he said.
The easiest way to be sure your smile will be crafted by a fully qualified specialist is to look for the NZAO logo used by all members of the New Zealand Association of Orthodontists. All NZAO members have completed an additional two to three years of full-time university study after graduating as a dentist and work with braces and orthodontic procedures every day.
Dr Green says the average cost of orthodontic treatment is usually determined by the length and complexity of treatment.
All members of the NZAO members provide payment plans that spread the treatment cost over the duration of the estimated treatment time to increase affordability.
“Specialist orthodontics provides benefits that last a lifetime, so it’s great to see a growing number of older patients are realising the benefits of this investment,” Dr Green says.
“The way our work sometimes transforms people’s lives can be truly incredible.”Go back