When considering braces, aligners, or general orthodontic care, people often picture a child or teen. Taking care of structural teeth issues is generally viewed as geared toward younger patients. Because of this, some older patients may believe their misaligned teeth are unfixable since they didn’t address the problem earlier in life.

Luckily for older adults, there is always time to get your teeth straightened. Yes, aligners and braces are often used in children – but they are also effective for older adults.

How aligner treatment differs for older patients

According to the American Academy of Orthodontists, 1 in 3 orthodontic patients is an adult. The stigma surrounding orthodontic care in advanced age is nothing but a myth. Treatment does differ slightly between children and adults, however.

For example, adult patients have greater bone density and more mature bones and teeth. Older patients may also have more dental issues stemming from usage and age, including gum disease and missing teeth, and the realignment process may take longer. But at the end of the day, the aligners will still work their magic no matter your age.

When children get their braces, they benefit from the wonders of youth – they heal faster, they respond to treatment better and there is more time to see the effects. There is no reason an older patient should ignore the utility of aligners simply because it may take a little longer to see results.  

Pros and cons of aligners for older adults

Here are some of the pros of using aligners when you’re an older adult:

Age has little impact on effectiveness

While older age may impact the speed of success, it generally has little impact on the overall effectiveness of treatment. The aligners may not feel natural after a lifetime of avoiding orthodontic care, and your parents aren’t there to make sure you wear them as a teenager – but if you overcome the initial discomfort, you’ll find that treatment with aligners is as effective at an advanced age as long as you follow all of your orthodontist’s protocols.

Clear and invisible

Aligners are clear and invisible, meaning there is little risk of someone noticing them in pictures or social settings. Some older adults may feel self-conscious about admitting to their friends and family they are getting their teeth realigned, and aligners can take a lot of the stress out of these scenarios by making the treatment extremely discreet.

Easily removable

With aligners, there is no need to worry about having a permanent straightening device in your mouth. They are easily removable when eating and, in many situations, make it easier to care for your teeth. Food often gets stuck in the teeth and gums with a permanent retainer, but aligners remedy this issue. All you need to do is clean the aligners regularly and maintain excellent oral health.

Here are some of the cons of using aligners when you’re an older adult:

Additional hygiene and dental care

Regardless of age, all patients should maintain the best oral care possible when using aligners. But this is especially important for older adults, who may have more age-related issues. These issues include tooth decay, gum disease and more. Older adults may have to invest more time and effort into oral care to ensure the aligners don’t interfere with budding issues. 

The additional time and expense may be difficult for much older patients with fewer resources and those needing support systems. Talk to your orthodontist and learn best practices for oral care and cleaning your aligners.

Preexisting dental conditions should be resolved before treatment

Many orthodontists will only suggest using aligners to straighten teeth once other dental issues are resolved or in remission. Children often don’t need to worry too much about this, but older adults should take heed. Advanced age increases the risk of gum disease and other conditions. Addressing these issues before getting your aligners could add more cost and time to the entire process.

Age is only a number with clear aligners

Aligners are for everyone. Whether you’re concerned about your age, how aligners work, what clear aligners cost or whether the entire process is worth it, know this – it’s never too late to get the smile you’ve always wanted.