If you want to hide those unsightly gaps in your teeth and get that great smile you always wanted, you’ve probably heard about how braces are your best bet. But that means wearing unsightly braces for years, which actually makes your smile look a whole lot worse until it can start looking better. That’s a hard thing to take for someone that just wants a better smile, though there are alternatives to braces for gaps and other cosmetic issues — you just have to know where to look.
Better yet, some of the options to fix that tooth gap won’t take years and cost you thousands before you can realize that great smile. For smaller gaps, chips, nicks and other cosmetic problems that you feel are wrecking your smile, modern orthodontic treatment can be tailored to your exact needs, giving you the smile you’re looking for with much less fuss than braces — and without the brace-face look that will end up dominating your smile. In fact, some alternatives are virtually invisible and instantaneous, meaning that you can fix that unsightly tooth gap without much dental work at all.
Let’s take a look at your options.
How To Close a Gap in Your Teeth Without Braces
While braces may be the best way to align an entire mouthful of teeth and get rid of bothersome gaps and other issues, braces may not be the best answer in all situations. Based on things like budget, time and even the recommendation of your dentist, you may opt for another kind of procedure to fill in those gaps, and odds are it’ll be cheaper and faster, too.
For missing teeth and other more serious issues, you’ll actually need a dental implant or fixed bridgework to close that large gap. A dental implant is a permanent fix for missing teeth or teeth that must be extracted for some reason. It’s basically an artificial root made of titanium metal that is surgically placed in the jawbone, which is then connected to a crown (single tooth) or bridgework (multiple teeth).
Sometimes, a bridge can be used to replace a single tooth instead of an implant, and in that case the missing tooth is attached to adjacent teeth via an adhesive on the back of the teeth so that it’s virtually invisible, though other types of bridges may rely on dental implants to improve structural rigidity if multiple teeth are missing.
As for smaller gaps, one of the cheapest ways to close a gap in your teeth is via composite bonding. Both long-lasting and non-invasive, bonding is a simple way to close up unsightly gaps by filling in the areas with a tooth-colored bonding material. However, if you have many gaps as well as alignment issues, bonding may not be the best solution as it’s more of a quick cover-up, not something that you’d want all over your teeth.
If your teeth have been damaged in any way, such as with chips, cracks and other issues, you may want to consider dental crowns. Whether you have large fillings already or there’s severe decay, erosion or even a fracture, a dental crown fits over top of your existing teeth after grinding the tooth down to something akin to a dental implant. With a healthy root in place, the crown can safely be placed on top, providing protection and filling in any unsightly gaps.
Another good alternative to braces for gaps in your smile are dental veneers. They’re small covers that are placed over your existing teeth, and they can fix overall shape and appearance as well as color. For smaller than normal teeth, or teeth that have been worn down or damaged via diet or acidic erosion, veneers are far better than braces for cosmetic challenges, though they’re expensive and require grinding down your natural teeth.
Depending on the reason for the gaps in your teeth, especially if you have many small gaps that could be addressed easily by braces, it may actually be the ideal fix. However, if your teeth are misshapen, discolored and need more work than what braces can provide alone, you may elect to go with an alternative to braces for those gaps. In some instances you may need both — fixing gaps with braces and other dental work to address everything else — so it’s not like braces are the be-all, end-all anyway.
Typically, braces are ideal for younger patients with missing teeth since their softer bone structure in the jaw can be more easily aligned via braces than the harder bone of an adult. For that reason, you won’t see braces on nearly as many adults as children, and bonding, veneers and implants are better to address cosmetic issues than a mouth full of braces. Discolored or stained teeth may even need whitening after it’s all said and done to revive your smile from that drab and yellow patina.
What About Less Visible Braces?
Due to certain improvements in the science of straightening teeth, it’s no longer mandatory to have a mouth full of metal on your way towards closing in all those gaps. Ceramic braces are the same size and shape as traditional braces but they have clear or tooth-colored brackets that blend in more easily with your teeth. Even the wire can be colored white to reduce visibility further, though ceramic braces are prone to staining and it can still take years before all those gaps are addressed.
To combat the visibility issue, there are also lingual braces that are installed on the inside of your teeth. It removes the visual problem with braces, but lingual braces are far more uncomfortable in your mouth since it’s where your tongue sits, and that can make it difficult to eat, chew and talk with lingual braces. Furthermore, lingual braces are not as effective as traditional braces, so they can only be used in certain scenarios.
That said, an ideal alternative to braces for gaps may be Invisalign and other types of removable aligners. They’re kind of like a clear retainer that slowly shifts your teeth over about six months or so, though you’ll need a new aligner every couple weeks. Because of this, Invisalign is very expensive and you’ll end up spending quite a bit of time at the dentist’s office. After you’re done, you may also need a retainer and other treatment such as whitening or bonding.
But if you want the truly best way to hide those gaps without getting braces, consider snap-on veneers. They clip over your existing teeth, fixing all cosmetic, shape and color issues in one fell swoop, and you can have your own customized set in just a matter of weeks. If you have an upcoming event or you just want to see how snap-on veneers can change your smile and your life, they’re your best bet.