Dental braces are devices that apply pressure to the teeth to gradually move them into the correct positions and straighten the teeth. Braces can correct crowded or misaligned teeth, gapped teeth and jawlines that don’t close properly.
Braces enable a flexible treatment that gradually moves your teeth into alignment. Braces offer several advantages, from minimal discomfort to limited recovery during treatment and minimal disruption to your daily activities. These reasons make braces a standard option for correcting misaligned jaws and teeth.
The only viable alternative to braces is jaw surgery which may be unsuitable for some people. Although some people believe that you can carry out orthodontic treatment at home without braces, these home alternatives can damage permanent teeth.
Types of braces
If you want to get braces to correct your crooked or misaligned teeth, you may want to consider the ups and downside of the three main types of braces.
- Metal braces
Metal braces are the conventional dental braces style. They are made from titanium or stainless steel. Metal braces consist of archwires, metal brackets, and elastic bands that apply constant but gentle pressure in the teeth.
The pressure exerted on the teeth gradually changes the jaw shape and move the teeth to take the shape of the braces.
- Ceramic braces
Ceramic braces have the same working mechanism as metal braces. However, the brackets are clear or tooth-coloured, making the braces less visible. Ceramic braces also use clear elastic bands and archwires to move the teeth into their correct positions slowly.
- Invisible braces
The invisible braces system involves a series of clear aligners worn all day, except when you want to eat. These braces are often referred to as Invisalign, a familiar brand name of the least visible braces.
A dentist or orthodontist will prescribe clear aligners. They work like braces, applying pressure to the teeth to gradually move them into alignment.
A review of studies in 2018 showed that Invisalign is a good alternative to braces for persons who want to correct minor or moderate misalignments.
Do retainers straighten the teeth without braces?
A retainer is a dental device usually worn at night to keep the teeth in their corrected positions. Wearing retainers to sleep without prior braces cannot straighten the teeth, and you can not use retainers made for someone else to straighten the teeth.
However, suppose you have slightly crowded or crooked teeth. In that case, a dentist may recommend wearing fixed retainers instead of a set of braces. Some people wear removable retainers during their treatment for slightly crowded teeth.
If you must use retainers, ensure you get an orthodontist to prescribe and monitor the treatment.
Can I straighten my teeth at home without braces?
Straightening your teeth at home without braces will be ineffective, resulting in more damage. Straightening the teeth using borrowed rubber bands, retainers, earring backs, paper clips, self-made equipment, and other DIY options can damage your teeth.
Although you can find online tutorials instructing people how to straighten their teeth with homemade braces, the possible side effects will likely be worse than when you haven’t straightened your teeth.
The teeth roots are surrounded by ligaments, securing the teeth into the gumline. Straightening the teeth without professional supervision can apply excess strain on the ligaments surrounding the teeth root. This may result in breaking off in the tooth root and possible tooth death.
Possible side effects include the following.
- Cuts in the gums
- Cracked teeth
- Tooth decay
- Oral infection
- Weakened tooth enamel
- Dislodged tooth
- Severe pain
A safe and proven alternative to braces
Some people can undergo a surgical procedure performed by an oral surgeon to change the teeth alignment. Orthognathic surgery may be a good treatment option if the jaw and teeth positions significantly affect your daily life.
Orthognathic surgery moves the jaw position, and its recovery lasts for about 2 – 3 weeks. In some cases, swelling lasts longer. Insurance usually covers this surgery. Surgery to correct teeth or jaw misalignment, whether minor or more invasive options are generally expensive.
If the dental issue requiring surgery does not affect your health, insurance will not cover it. The cost of teeth straightening surgery varies widely, depending on insurance coverage and location.
Alternatives to improve your smile
Other alternatives to braces that can improve your smile include the following. Although these treatment options do not straighten the teeth, they correct other issues that affect the mouth.
- Palate expanders
In some cases, usually in children, the mouth is too small to accommodate the size of the adult teeth, resulting in crossbite or buck teeth.
The dentist may recommend a palate expander inserted between the top arch of the teeth to correct a crossbite. The palate expander will gently push the teeth apart, expanding the available space for the adult teeth.
Treatment with a palate expander is often recommended for young adults and children because their jaws are still developing.
- Herbst appliance
A Herbst appliance can correct misaligned jaws. The dentist will glue this metal device to rings on the bottom and top teeth. Children use this device simultaneously as braces because it corrects the jaw’s alignment.
- Cosmetic dentistry (bonding, contouring and veneers)
Cosmetic dental treatments like dental bonding or veneers do not straighten the teeth but improve the teeth appearance, making them look straight. They can correct:
- Chipped teeth
- Large gaps between the teeth
- Teeth that do not line up
Your dentist can place veneers strategically to make the teeth look straighter. Teeth whitening is also an option. Although whitening the teeth don’t straighten teeth, teeth whitening can help make your teeth look brighter, reducing the visibility of imperfectly aligned teeth.
Who needs teeth straightening?
If you have crooked or misaligned teeth that affect your daily activities, you can do teeth straightening. Difficulty in biting or chewing food or speech difficulties are common issues resulting from crooked teeth.
If you feel self-conscious about your rotated or crowded teeth, consider visiting your dentist to get suitable teeth straightening treatment.
Experts recommend that children visit the dentist to evaluate braces before age seven. However, the recommended time for teeth straightening in children is between 9 – 14 years.
Adults can also get braces as braces are suitable for anyone regardless of age. Children and adults with the following issues can get braces.
- Difficulty in biting down or chewing
- Clicking or shifted jaws
- Misaligned or crowded teeth
- Buck teeth or a history of thumb sucking
- Mouth breathing
- Difficulty pronouncing some words or sounds
- Jaws that do not close properly
Braces are a safe and effective option to straighten the teeth permanently. Suppose you want an effective treatment but are concerned about your appearance during the treatment. In that case, you can consult with London based Invisalign providers to check your suitability for Invisalign aligners.