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(ARA) - About 4.5 million Americans wear braces or other dental appliances to straighten their teeth, according to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). Many more - an estimated 50 to 75 percent of the population - have some form of malocclusion or misaligned teeth and could benefit from orthodontic treatment.
The majority of orthodontic patients are children or teenagers - commonly starting treatment between 9 and 14 years of age. Now, however, with innovative treatment alternatives to traditional metal braces, more adults are opting to go into treatment. One in five patients is an adult age 18 or older, according to the AAO, and many parents are going into treatment with their children, which can be a great way to save time by scheduling joint appointments. Invisalign clear braces are available for adults and teens, and can save even more time with shorter and fewer office visits. Orthodontists consistently say that anyone with healthy teeth and gums can straighten their smile at any time, regardless of age.
"Today there are many ways to straighten your teeth with new leading-edge technology that can make orthodontic treatment healthier, more comfortable, cosmetically appealing, and affordable too," says Beverly Hills, Calif.-based orthodontist, Dr. Alexander Waldman. "These new innovative alternatives to traditional wires and brackets, such as Invisalign, address the concerns over comfort, esthetics and cost that may prevent some people from seeking orthodontic treatment that could improve their smiles and quality of life."
Teeth that are crooked, misaligned or have too much or too little space in between are among the most common problems treated with braces. Hereditary factors like a smaller palate can contribute to these problems. Environmental factors including thumb-sucking or accidents are other causes. In addition to impacting one's appearance, teeth that are badly misaligned can impede eating and speech.
Here are some tips for finding the right treatment for you or your child, addressing common problems and keeping cost-saving considerations in mind:
* An orthodontist or dentist can tell you if you need braces or some other treatment to correct misaligned teeth. The initial consultation to determine if you need braces is almost always a budget friendly, free-of-charge visit, making it easy to get more than one opinion.
* One of the most cosmetically appealing treatments for aligning your teeth can also be very affordable. Invisalign straightens teeth like metal braces and costs about the same, but is virtually invisible on your teeth. A series of clear aligners, made from smooth plastic custom-made to fit to your teeth, eliminates the gum and mouth irritation often associated with metal braces while moving your teeth in small increments so there's little pain. This treatment can also prevent costly emergency visits for broken wires, as well as post-treatment teeth whitening or repair.
Fixed wire and bracket braces can make it difficult to brush and floss leaving teeth vulnerable to developing decay, plaque, periodontal disease and stains that must be taken care of after braces are removed. Because Invisalign wearers can remove their aligners to brush and floss, they can more easily maintain good oral hygiene.
"Compared to traditional metal braces, my patients that are treated with removable appliances find that it is much easier to maintain good oral hygiene which results in fewer post-treatment procedures," adds Waldman.
* Many dental insurance plans cover orthodontic treatment, but when less than 100 percent is covered or for those without dental insurance, many orthodontists now offer payment plans that allow you to spread the cost of treatment out over the course of treatment rather than paying in budget-busting lump sums at the beginning and end of treatment.
* Setting aside pre-tax dollars in a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) through your employer is another way to make paying for braces easier.
According to Waldman, "Braces have almost become a rite of passage for teens. Now adults who didn't have their teeth straightened as teens, perhaps because of financial or cosmetic concerns at the time, can improve their smile as adults - and maintain a professional appearance for work - with modern technology like Invisalign."
Visit www.invisalign.com or invisalignteen.com to learn more.
Courtesy of ARAcontent
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