With teeth crowding and other alignment and cosmetic issues, braces are one of the few things that can get those teeth back in line and give you a beautiful new smile. But it’s not the only game in town, and if you know where to look you can find different alternatives to braces for crowded teeth that are cheaper, more natural looking and don’t take all that time and fuss like what’s required with a mouthful of braces.
Furthermore, unless you’re younger, braces may not be ideal since they’re commonly used with teenagers and children that have softer bones that are easier to work with when trying to address the issue of crowded teeth. That’s why you’ll see few adults with braces, but it’s also a matter of just not wanting to deal with braces as you get older. Since you’ll have them on for a year or two, it’s one of the most intrusive crowded teeth treatments for adults, and you still may need teeth whitening and other cosmetic dental work to get you to your ideal smile.
What Do Braces Do?
To understand why braces may not be the best fit, it’s important to know what braces do. If you’re considering braces for your crowded teeth, it’s not a decision that you’ll want to make lightly. In addition to the time it takes, braces are also prohibitively expensive, and then there’s also the discomfort and all that stuff that needs to be permanently affixed to your teeth while the braces do the work.
That said, braces are one of the best ways to align crowded and crooked teeth, which can also help when it comes to cleaning because of all those hidden nooks and crannies with crooked teeth. As for the straightening itself, that requires gluing an individual brace on the front of each tooth, then connecting a wire via rubber bands to each tooth. All together the system slowly pulls each tooth into a straight line as the wire guides the final placement of the teeth and the braces or brackets hold the wire in place.
Because regular adjustments are needed every few weeks, you’ll be spending a lot of time at the dentist getting your braces tweaked and fine-tuned. But after you’re done with the braces you may still need other dental procedures to fix the issues that braces can’t — such as discoloration, misshapen teeth, chips and cracks.
However, in addition to fixing crowded teeth, braces can also help correct underbites, overbites, open bites or crossbites, as well as problems with jaw position and issues with the jaw joint. For most people, however, braces are overkill for small gaps or crowding that could be easily addressed via other means.
Alternatives to Traditional Braces
Due to the fact that braces are so expensive and unsightly — especially if you just want a better smile — many people would never consider braces unless they were mandated or recommended by their dentist. But with recent advances in modern dentistry, braces aren’t the only option for a crowded teeth treatment for adults or children.
One of the main alternatives to braces for crowded teeth is Invisalign, which is a series of 3D-printed plastic trays that fit over your existing teeth and gently nudge them into position over the course of several months. That means you’ll need a new tray every week or two as each tray is only responsible for slight movements of your teeth.
The aligners themselves are not highly visible, though they can look a little odd close up. You also have to wear them for 22 of the day’s 24 hours, which means leaving them in for just about everything, including sleeping. Unlike braces, the nice thing is that you can take them out to brush, eat or drink, but otherwise you’ll be wearing them day in and day out. For special functions and events you can always take them out, but unless you’re at the end of your treatment plan, your teeth won’t be any better for it.
Another alternative to braces for crowded teeth is lingual braces, which are braces that go on the inside of your teeth instead of the outside. They’re practically invisible from the front, but they do take some getting used to. Eating, speaking and cleaning is more difficult with lingual braces than traditional braces, and you’ll also have to wear them for an extended period of time and deal with all the other trappings of braces such as the high cost and prolonged treatment time.
For those that need braces but that aren’t a fan of the metal grill look, ceramic braces are less visible than metal braces because they’re clear or tooth-colored. The wire itself can also be colored white to reduce the appearance even more, though with everything and the rubber bands installed, it’s not like they’re hard to see — they’re less visible, but not invisible.
If only a single tooth needs to be moved, a retainer is a viable alternative to braces for crowded teeth and other issues. They’re certainly less visible than braces, but you’ll still have a metal wire running across the front of your teeth when you’re wearing it. Inside your mouth, it can also take some time to get used to a retainer, though you can always remove the retainer when needed, such as during eating and cleaning.
What About a Cosmetic Fix?
For those that aren’t keen on braces, retainers or Invisalign, there are some cosmetic fixes that are decent alternatives to braces for crowded teeth problems.
If your teeth are misshapen, discolored or not quite aligned correctly, porcelain veneers can fix a number of dental issues with a lot less fuss than braces. Unfortunately, it also requires drilling down the topmost layers of your teeth and affixing a permanent shell in its place. They’re long lasting, but not for life, so you’ll have to replace them every five to 10 years or so. They’re also expensive.
Dental bonding is another alternative to braces that’s relatively inexpensive and doesn’t require years of dental work. However, they can’t fix more serious issues like crowded teeth, but they are ideal for smaller cosmetic issues like filling in small gaps and chips.
In fact, the only real alternative to braces for crowded teeth that checks all the boxes — cost, time and look — are snap-on veneers. Instead of all that dental work and messing with the structure of your teeth, snap-on veneers can give you a great smile out of the box in less than a month without even requiring a visit to the dentist. Learn more about snap-on veneers here.