Can you straighten teeth without braces?
Many treatments are available to straighten teeth without braces, including retainers, appliances (e.g. Herbst appliance), ‘headgear’, palatal expanders, and clear aligners (e.g. Invisalign). Restorative treatments including contouring, bonding, porcelain veneers, and crown work can also be used to lengthen teeth, widen teeth, or to replace missing tooth structures, creating a natural/aligned aesthetic.
Straighter teeth – what issues can be corrected without braces?
Adults and teenagers alike often wish to achieve a naturally aligned healthy looking ‘perfect’ smile. Although this can be achieved through the use of traditional metal braces, many people wish to avoid the social stigma attached to a ‘brace face’ or ‘train track’ appearance during treatment. First, we must understand the dental issues that could lead people to ask how to straighten teeth without braces.
Dental issues that can be fixed or straightened without braces include:
Physical injury to the teeth (e.g. chipped or cracked tooth)
Where a patient suffers a severe physical injury to the teeth, chips and serious cracks can occur that can result in ‘angular’ edges giving the impression of misaligned teeth. Solving the issue to straighten teeth without braces could involve restorative treatment such as porcelain veneers or prosthetic crowns (please see treatments below).
Overcrowding – where lack of space in the palate results in overlapping teeth
A skilled orthodontist can help patients to straighten teeth without braces in cases of overcrowding. Treatments such as bonded lingual retainers, palatal expanders, and clear aligners may be used to guide the teeth into a natural position, with results varying depending on the severity of the overcrowding (please see treatments below).
Malocclusion (the upper and lower opposing teeth do not align)
A malocclusion occurs where the dental arches of opposing upper and lower teeth do not align when the patient bites down. Minor cases may be treated via various methods, including removable Hawley retainers, clear aligners (e.g. Invisalign), and bonded retainers affixed to the back of the teeth (please see treatments below).
A narrow or underdeveloped palate forces teeth to grow out of position
Straightening teeth without braces is possible in the case of a narrow or underdeveloped palate through the use of a palatal expander. This treatment involves the use of a device to put gentle pressure on the palate to widen the upper jaw (also known as the maxilla), resulting in alignment of the upper and lower teeth (please see treatments below).
Treatments to straighten teeth without braces
The orthodontist will assist the patient in deciding the most appropriate course of action to straighten teeth without braces, ensuring that patient expectations are managed and met. Depending on the extent of the patient’s dental issues, the orthodontist may choose from a range of treatment options to bring the teeth in natural and comfortable alignment.
Types of treatment to straighten teeth without braces include:
Orthodontic headgear comprises all types of treatment involving the use of external parts (fitted to the head/neck) that hook onto an oral appliance placed in the mouth. With the advancement of alternative (and less conspicuous) treatments to straighten teeth without braces, the use of orthodontic headgear has declined in recent years.
Clear aligners (e.g. Invisalign)
The Invisalign treatment system is used to straighten teeth without braces. The patient is provided with several near-invisible custom clear aligners (or trays) between dental check-ups. Each removable Invisalign aligner must be worn for up to 22 hours per day, moving the teeth a small amount. The patient must replace the aligner every two weeks.
Palatal expanders are often used in child patients to help straighten teeth without braces. Where the child’s palate is not of sufficient size to house all incoming adult teeth, a palatal expander is used to widen the arch of the mouth. The expander is anchored into place by two brackets fixed to the upper rear molars.
Porcelain veneers may be used to give the appearance of straight teeth without braces. This treatment may be an option where a patient declines braces/treatment with an orthodontist and opts instead for cosmetic dental work that uses veneers to give the appearance of straight teeth.
Similar to porcelain veneers, restorative crown work may be used to ‘cover’ or replace crooked or broken teeth, resulting in straightened teeth without the use of braces.The dentist will prepare and shape the tooth before permanently bonding the restorative prosthetic crown into place, giving a new and perfect alignment to the teeth.
Contouring & bonding
Contouring and bonding is used to straighten teeth without braces in cases of minor misalignment or chips. The teeth are shaped using dental tools before alignment is enhanced where necessary using bonding (a tooth coloured filling material). This approach is used to lengthen or widen teeth or to replace any damaged or missing tooth structure.