Getting braces gives major health benefits to seniors, expert says

Several options available; benefits go beyond aesthetics

It's just a side effect of getting older -- everything seems to shift. Exercise can help our bodies, but there's not much we can do to prevent our smiles from aging.

"We lose some gum over time, our bone structure changes and our teeth tend to shift over time, as well," Dr. Pamela Steiger said.

Crooked teeth and poorly aligned bites aren't just cosmetic concerns. Because it makes brushing and flossing more difficult, they are associated with bone loss, erosion of tooth enamel, headaches and jaw joint pain.

Natalie Lewis, 62, wasn't happy with her smile. The busy grandma thought it made her look older than she felt.

"It seemed as though my bottom teeth were crowding, and the crowding was becoming more obvious," Lewis said.

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Lewis decided to give Invisalign a try. The removable, customized retainers are changed every couple of weeks and gently shift the teeth into better alignment.

It took Lewis one year to get her perfect smile, but because some seniors just need a little tweaking, treatment can be as quick as just six months.

And Steiger said there are several aesthetically pleasing options.

"We do have Invisalign, which is a clear alternative to straighten the teeth," Steiger said. "We also have braces inside the teeth so completely invisible, as well; nice clear braces."

Lewis said her straight teeth really have her smiling.

"I feel more self-confident of it," Lewis said. "The smile is the universal language. If you have a straight smile, you're probably speaking the truth."