As a gum specialist, I often get my patients to straighten their teeth once their gums are treated and their condition is stable. I work very closely with the orthodontists in my practice as it is always good to have straight, well-aligned teeth. If brushing your teeth is not easy now because your teeth are crooked and trap a lot of plaque, things will only get worse as you grow older. In our old age, many of us lose our dexterity. Cleaning crooked teeth then gets even more impossible!
So really, do plan for the future. It seems so far away when we still do headstands during yoga class, but soon enough my friend, the time will come when we find tying our shoelaces difficult. *Sob! So here, I just want to address some common questions that many patients ask:
1. You are never too old to wear braces!
Well, that is almost always true. Age really doesn’t matter when you are moving teeth. Teeth can be moved healthily and safely regardless of age. It is only important to orthodontists that we are moving healthy teeth around. If you have active gum disease and you start braces, you could lose bone around the teeth and the teeth could loosen. Not a clever move!
2. You need to have healthy gums before wearing braces
You really need to have healthy gums and teeth before you get those braces on! There is a lot of inflammation in gum disease that makes the bone very soft. So when braces exert forces on the bone, the bone is unable to take the extra pressure and bone loss around the teeth occurs, causing it to shake and in severe cases, even fall out. :( So the bottom line is, get a gum check before starting braces and your periodontist can coordinate with your orthodontist when you are ready for braces.
3. You need to have good oral hygiene while wearing braces
Good oral hygiene is needed to remove plaque and bacteria. If they accumulate on the brackets and teeth, the bacteria could cause gum disease to become uncontrolled again and your teeth could become loose while the gum disease worsens. Also, if you don’t brush, the bacteria get trapped on your teeth by the braces and when the braces are removed… Voila! You get teeth that are patchy and mottled from initial decay. Gross and not cool.
4. Braces do not need to be ugly
There are many different types of braces nowadays. You don’t need to look like a teenage metal mouth any longer! There are ceramic braces, which have natural-looking tooth-coloured brackets or for best aesthetics, go for Invisalign, a set of clear transparent aligners that help move teeth slowly but surely into its new position.
5. Braces are not that painful
Some people worry about the pain, and to be honest, the teeth do feel sore for a few days after tightening. But it eases up very soon. If my 7-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter can bear with the soreness, so can you!
So go ahead and take that leap to do braces if you have been dawdling about it. Or at least just visit an orthodontist for a consultation and ask all the questions you want. Age is not a factor when deciding if you should go ahead to straighten those crooked front teeth. Just make sure that your gums and teeth are healthy before you start!
Article authored by Dr Marlene Teo in consultation with orthodontist and guest contributor Dr Hwang Yee Cheau.
Dr Hwang Yee Cheau is a graduate of King’s College Dental Hospital, University of London (BDS), where she was awarded the coveted Maurice Kettle Prize in Orthodontics (1983). She specialized in Orthodontics at the Guy’s Dental Hospital, graduating with a Masters in Orthodontics (MSc Orthodontics) in 1990. She is a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.
Dr Hwang is a Visiting Clinical Tutor and an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the Postgraduate Orthodontic Department of National University Hospital, Singapore. She also serves as a member of the Orthodontic Committee of Postgraduate Dental Studies at the National University of Singapore. In 2013, she was awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award in recognition for her contributions to the university.
She is the CEO of TP Dental Surgeons Pte Ltd – a multi-disciplinary dental practice.
She served as a Board Member and Chairman of the Audit Committee at the Singapore Dental Council from 2009 till 2012. Currently, she is a Committee Member of the Singapore Dental Council Complaints Panel (since 2009). She also sits on the Panel of Chairman of Disciplinary Committee, Singapore Dental Council.
Dr Hwang is also on the Academic Advisory Board for Invisalign.