Carole Tilley had always hated the way her front upper teeth hid awkwardly behind the lower ones. Her husband, Bill, had encouraged her for years to 'get something done about them'.
But whenever she mentioned it to her dentist, he said there was nothing that could be done. So for decades, she endured an odd feeling in her mouth and a marked self-consciousness about her smile.
It wasn’t until Carole, from Sidcup, Kent, was 60 that a new dentist, Tif Qureshi, suggested she try and sort the problem out with a brace.
Like most of us, Carole imagined that for an adult to resort to orthodontics like a teenager, they would need to have a pretty desperate problem and be prepared to endure great discomfort to conquer it.
'True,' Dr Qureshi said, 'until now, that is.' Tif is one of the pioneers of a revolutionary new brace invented by a Florida dental technician, Don Inman, and turning the cosmetic dentistry world on its head.
The 'Inman Aligner' does in two or three months what a traditional brace can take as many years to achieve. As a result, straightening adult teeth now costs a fraction of what it used to. The aligner is eminently suitable for people aged 50 and above.
And, as a bonus, you are able – indeed, you are encouraged - to remove the device for up to four hours a day, so you can eat normally and keep your mouth clean.
It’s the speed of the treatment which is delighting people trying the new technique.
'Mr Qureshi said it would take three months,' says Carole, 'but the teeth came forward in two. I didn’t think they would at my age. I’ve been absolutely amazed at the transformation. It made me feel so different.
'It was a bit embarrassing at the start because I had trouble speaking, but I persevered and was fine with it very soon.'
Another of Tif’s patients, Joan Lester, had a more severe problem when she decided at 58 to do something about it.
'I’ve got a very small jaw and my bottom teeth had always been overcrowded. I always hated my teeth but just put up with them.
'I’d asked my former dentist if he could do anything and he just said it would be too big a job. Then I went along to see Dr Qureshi and he said straightaway, "I think we can do something about this." I’ve been thrilled and delighted with the treatment. It cost less than £2,000.'
The Inman Aligner works differently from normal braces. 'It provides constant uni-directional pressure,' Tif explains. 'The problem with other systems is that they rely on the orthodontist tweaking the brace with pliers to get the high force going.
'But that force soon wears off. The Inman Aligner is driven by nickel titanium springs, which have a permanent memory. The pressure doesn’t die until they get to where they want to be. The forces it produces are actually lower, but it’s massively efficient because there’s no wasted time. You can usually push a tooth three to four millimetres forwards or backwards, and also rotate them by as much as 60 degrees.
'I’ve had patients who’ve been told they would need to wear a brace for three years and have several teeth taken out and whom we’ve treated in a few months without taking any teeth out.'
About a fifth of Tif’s patients for the Inman Aligner are over 50 and a few are in their seventies. He reports that practically all these more mature patients say that the clincher is that you can take the aligner out for meals.
Central London dentist Tim Bradstock-Smith is the other leading Inman pioneer. So great is his enthusiasm for the new treatment that he took on one particularly special patient.
'Yes, I’ve even done my mum, who’s 66,' says Tim. 'Her lower teeth were quite crowded and it always really bugged her and she was wondering if they could be moved.
'I said they’ll definitely be a bit slower, but we’ll get some movement. Eight weeks later, we were finished. It was one of the quickest results we’ve had. So I’ve no hesitation recommending it for the older age group. It’s the most important development in cosmetic dentistry since I’ve been in the field.'
With dentistry being a big money business and orthodontics one of its most lucrative branches, Tif and Tim have come under heavy fire until recently from orthodontists who accuse them of letting the side down because Inman treatment is so short-lived and relatively inexpensive.
'Yes, we’ve had some pretty nasty emails from the traditionalists,' Tif says, 'But more often, dentists are coming round to seeing the benefits. Tim and I teach the technique and our courses are booked out well into next year.'
'It’s a no-brainer in the end,' says Tim, whose practice is in London’s West End. 'You can treat more people more quickly, so dentists make just as much money – and have the pleasure of knowing they’re improving far more people’s lives.'