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Am I too old for dental braces?

Are you an adult thinking about getting dental braces? If so, you’ll be happy to learn that you’re part of a growing trend.

The truth is that you are never too old for braces. At Turner Lim, our oldest patience was about 65 years of age. Overseas, particularly in Scandinavia, it’s not uncommon for people to get braces in their 70s.

Many adults, perhaps due to the cost, were unable to get braces during their teens. Also, some may have actually had nice straight teeth in their youth, which have become crooked later in life. You see, teeth are embedded in bone, and bone changes over time.

Why get braces?

Nice teeth weren’t so important 30 – 40 years ago — look at the “shagedelic” Austin Powers! Today, though, people are more aesthetically aware, and they want to look as good as they can. And fair enough, too!

Thankfully, getting braces is easier than it used to be, and you may be surprised by how affordable orthodontic treatment has become. Braces are also comfortable, smaller and less visible than in days gone by.

So, braces are more affordable and comfortable. But, why go to all the trouble?
Well, having a nice smile is great for your self-confidence — it can even benefit your career and social life, according to studies.

There are health benefits, too. For example, even minor crowding can make it difficult to clean your teeth properly, which can lead to decay and gum disease.

Does treatment differ with older patients?

When treating adults, we aim to keep things simple and treatment times down to a year to a year and a half. As you might expect, adults often have dental issues that younger patients don’t such as missing teeth, severe wear or gum disease. Adults’ facial bones have also stopped growing. So, we modify our treatment accordingly.

Issues preventing getting braces

Gum disease resulting in the loss of bone that supports teeth can cause problems. Though gum disease doesn’t necessary rule out getting braces, it does need to be dealt with before we begin treatment. This is because orthodontic treatment works by moving teeth within the supporting bone.

If you suffer from a medical condition such as leukaemia, diabetes or heart-valve disease, we also recommend that you discuss your condition with your doctor or orthodontist. For example, some patients suffering from cancer or osteoporosis are prescribed bone modifying drugs that affect how teeth move.

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Drink sports drinks: Is that really what Richie does?

Sports and energy drinks. If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ll know I hold serious reservations about them — they’re bad for your teeth, and unless you’re an elite athlete, do little to enhance sporting prowess.

A few months ago, I published this post about the dangers of sports drinks. Soon after, I saw this disturbing story in the media:

In Nelson, a five-year-old boy needed to have multiple rotting teeth removed. He arrived at the clinic holding a large bottle of Powerade. When the dentist asked him why he was drinking Powerade, he said, “because Richie does.”

Of course, the little boy was referring to ex-All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

As an orthodontist, I find this shocking. There is no way a five-year-old child should be drinking Powerade.

Funnily enough, a smart little boy at my clinic who had heard the story said to me, “I don’t think Richie does drink it.”

It’s sad because I suspect he’s right — Richie McCaw probably doesn’t drink Powerade. Yet, he’s sponsored by them, and young people who put him on a pedestal think they need it to be like him.

The dentist who treated the boy, Dr. Rob Beaglehole, rightly pointed out to Stuff that sugary drinks contribute to many health issues in New Zealand, which include tooth decay, obesity and type-2 diabetes.

What are sports drinks?

Sports drinks are designed to replenish your body with carbohydrates and electrolytes faster than water can. You need this kind of replenishment if you lose more than a litre of body fluid an hour. The thing is, though everyday sportspeople (especially children) will never lose that much fluid during exercise. And, in fact, many of those who favour these drinks don’t even play sport — they just like the taste!

Terrible for children

More health professionals are beginning to recognise the dangers of too much sugar. Sports and energy drinks actually contain more sugar than Coca Cola. So, if you give your child a sports drink, you are effectively bathing their teeth in a tooth-decaying, sugary solution between meals. For children, and adults for that matter, water is a far better option.

Time for a change

As more cases like the Nelson boy emerge, I wonder whether top sports people will begin to distance themselves from sports drinks. I hope so.

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The surprising history of orthodontic braces

A perfect smile. Most of us would like one. And thankfully, thanks to advancements in orthodontics, it’s now easier to achieve than ever before.

The health benefits

Straight teeth give us confidence. Studies have also shown that, unfortunately, people with bite problems are often perceived unfairly.

Of course, looks aren’t everything. Your health matters more. And fixing bite problems can be beneficial to your health. For example, conditions such as crowding can make it difficult to clean your teeth properly. This, can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.

The mechanics of modern braces

Braces work by using the principles of basic engineering. Gentle pressure is applied to the periodontal ligament (which holds your teeth in position) to move the teeth where your orthodontist wants them to go. Too much pressure shouldn’t be applied too quickly, so small changes are made about every 30 days. Treatment can take up to three years.

Ancient practices

Modern orthodontics first emerged in 1819 when Christophe-Francois Delabarre invented the crib wire. However, mankind’s quest for straight teeth goes back much farther — right back to ancient times.

The Egyptians

In Egypt, for example, some mummified remains show evidence of early attempts to straighten teeth. Archaeologists have uncovered human remains with animal intestines (catgut) wrapped around the teeth, which resemble the wire used for modern braces.

The Etruscans

The Etruscans resided around Italy between 770 to 270 BC. It seems they too cared about straight teeth — for the dead, at least. During burial, Etruscan women (they didn’t bother with the men) were sometimes fitted with a mouth-guard-like device made of pure gold. This, apparently, prevented teeth collapsing inwards, so the deceased could look ‘fabulous’ as they entered the afterlife.

The Romans

Not to be outdone, ancient Romans also had a device similar to modern braces. While exploring tombs, archaeologists have found many corpses with gold wire (ligature wire) fitted along the teeth to close noticeable gaps.

The first set of braces

The term ‘braces’ was first used officially in the early 1900s. Though named the same, they were quite different to braces of today.

Each tooth was individually fitted with a band, and the materials used for varied. Depending on preference, some dentists used ivory, some used copper and some used zinc. The most popular material was gold because of its flexibility when heated.

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