What It’s Like Living With Adult Braces

Prepare to spend thousands and give up caramel (and bagels!) for a while.

Braces

Having braces at any age sucks — they tear up the inside of your mouth, make eating a real pain and, especially for kids, can lead to a whole bunch of bullying. But since 75 percent of people with braces are kids or teens, having them at that age at least feels a little more normal than having them as an adult, which can feel ostracizing due to how uncommon it is.

They also still hurt as an adult. As one redditor who got braces at the age of 27 writes, “The only thing I can tell you, and I’ll be totally honest, they hurt. They are uncomfortable. They are annoying. It restricts your eating.” While wearing braces, orthodontists recommend cutting down on sweets, which can linger between the brackets and cause cavities. They also suggest avoiding crunchy, sticky and chewy foods — popcorn, bagels, nuts and seeds, caramel, gum, corn on the cob, apples, carrots — which can damage wires and loosen brackets.

Another redditor laments that having braces at 23 prevents her from socializing and dating. “It has really damaged my confidence and self-esteem,” she writes. “I would avoid social events and I’m definitely avoiding dates because I don’t feel attractive and I can’t smile. I used to be confident with talking to anyone but now I’m hiding my mouth and it’s not fun.” 

A redditor who found out she need braces at age 25 shares these same concerns. “This is going to sound really shallow and stupid, but I feel bad because I think braces always look terrible, and even more so on an adult,” she writes. “I’m a fairly attractive woman, and now I feel a part of that is going to be taken away and I guess I don’t know how to deal with it.”

Now, slightly crooked teeth can be perfectly healthy, and therefore, some adults are choosing to get braces purely for cosmetic reasons. But in many cases, a gnarled smile can lead to problems down the road, which is why even adults who are happy with their teeth might benefit from braces. According to the Meyer Orthodontics blog, “Misaligned teeth can interfere with proper chewing, make keeping teeth clean more difficult and strain your teeth, jaws and muscles. Crooked teeth are also more likely to break while chewing or biting.”

Whether you want them or need them, if you feel weird about wearing regular braces as an adult, there are some more subtle options. “I have Invisalign right now and you really can’t see it unless you’re like six inches from my face,” one redditor writes. Lingual braces are also an option, albeit a slightly more expensive one — they go on the inside of the teeth, which obviously makes them less visible.

Whatever you choose, it’s worth considering that insurance rarely covers braces, since most dental plans don’t include orthodontic treatments for people over 18, especially if those treatments are cosmetic or attempting to fix an issue that could be considered pre-existing. “My braces cost about $6,000 and unfortunately where I live, insurance does not cover them so it was done by monthly payments of $250 after paying a lump sum ($900) at my first appointment,” one redditor writes [sic]. “Total pain in the a** but it made me take care of them way better than I normally care to do, I think.”

But while you might feel insecure about wearing braces as an adult, the consensus from most people is that adult braces are really no big deal. One redditor says it took his own mom two whole weeks to notice his new braces. “My dad had braces in his 50s, and I thought he looked adorable,” another redditor writes. Yet another redditor adds, “As far as I’m concerned, straight teeth are attractive and the fact that you’re working on that is a plus.”

Likewise, while having braces as an adult can certainly make you feel more conspicuous than wearing them during adolescence, adults tend to be more understanding than kids on the schoolyard. “I think adult braces should be the norm,” writes one redditor, who wore Invisalign during his early 20s. “At that stage, we either don’t care, or we understand. If I saw a 25 year old girl wearing braces, first thought is ‘she’s going to be so happy when they’re removed.’ I would be excited for her. Laughing, teasing, or just saying to myself ‘lol, an adult with braces? Wow,’ would never cross my mind. You have a medical condition and you’re getting treated for it. And it’s going to change your life and improve your self esteem.”

Speaking of which, for most adults with braces, the end result is more than worth the trouble. “When I got them off I bawled my eyes out,” writes the same redditor who got braces at 27. “I think it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. My mum cried. My boyfriend just couldn’t stop staring. IT IS WORTH IT. I literally don’t know how to word it. When they come off, you will be so amazingly happy. It’s a surreal feeling. More so as an adult, because it’s not the norm (like as a teen).”

So put down the caramel and stick it out. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.