Traditionally, people who have needed orthodontia have gotten braces as adolescents. But things are changing with more adults now electing treatment, according to a new study by the British Orthodontic Society (BOS). Its June online membership poll found that 75% of respondents are seeing an increase in adult treatment.
A quarter of respondents are starting more than 50 new adult cases each year. Also, more than 80% have practices with 50% or more private adult patients, most of whom are female. Of these adults in mixed and private practices, 66% are 26 to 40 years old, and 22% are 41 to 55 years old, with more than 10% between 18 and 25 years old.
“We welcome the growth of interest in orthodontic treatment,” said Dr. Alison Murray, president of the BOS. “Many adults who have undergone orthodontic treatment report higher levels of self-esteem, and their quality of life is often significantly improved.”
Key drivers of this interest, the BOS reports, appear to be heightened awareness of adult orthodontics alongside rising expectations on how treatment can positively impact both appearance and well being.
To meet this rising demand, the BOS has launched “Orthodontics for Adults: The Why, How, Where and Who.” Designed for patients to read before they see a clinician, it covers all aspects of the orthodontic decision-making process. It also offers tips that guide patients toward getting the information they need to make the right choices for them.
In the United States and Canada, a 2014 survey by the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) reported a 16% increase in adults seeking treatment from 2012 to 2014 for a record total of 1,460,000 patients ages 18 years and older. The AAO also estimated that 27% of all American and Canadian orthodontic patients were adults.
“Thanks to innovative technology and techniques, many adults are pleasantly surprised when they learn about today’s treatment options, which can be almost imperceptible,” said Morris N. Poole, DDS, former president of the AAO. “It’s a common misperception that orthodontic care is just for adolescents.”
Additionally, Poole said, further data shows that adults report improvements in their professional and personal lives after completing treatment. He credits the growing number of adults receiving treatment to the widespread understanding that a healthy and beautiful smile lends itself to social and professional success.
Affordability is another benefit, Poole said, with most orthodontists offering a variety of payment options. No referral is necessary to see an orthodontist either, with complimentary or low-cost initial consultations. Dental insurance can offset a portion of the treatment’s costs as well.
“Despite the recession and difficult economic times in recent years, orthodontic treatment is at an all-time high,” Poole said. “A healthy, beautiful smile is an investment for a lifetime, no matter what age the treatment begins.”