As an adult, you may have heard that it’s too late to correct your crossbite — but don’t listen to the cynics. Truth be told, there are several effective ways to correct bite issues even after the jaw is fully developed, and braces are one of the absolute best. They can treat an array of crossbites, and thanks to orthodontic advancements, you have options that are simple and discreet.
In this guide, we’ll dive into the details of treating crossbite with braces, your braces options, and some alternatives if braces aren’t the right fit for you.
Table of Contents
What Is Crossbite?
Crossbite is a common dental misalignment in which some of the upper teeth sit behind the corresponding lower ones, while others sit naturally in front. Although it is rarely cause for serious medical concern, crossbite can cause discomfort and make you less confident in your smile, and that’s often reason enough to consider corrective treatment.
There are two types of crossbite. An anterior crossbite is when some upper back teeth sit inside the lower back teeth, while a posterior crossbite involves some upper front teeth that sit behind their lower counterparts.
Either type can affect the appearance of your smile and, if severe enough, your facial features. But it’s not just a cosmetic concern. Other symptoms include:
- Jaw pain
- Difficulty eating
- Trouble closing the mouth properly
- Speech impediments
- Mouth breathing
Not only that, but if you let a crossbite go untreated, it will wear down your enamel unevenly, and can eventually lead to tooth decay, gum disease, temporomandibular disorder (TMD), and even tooth loss.
Crossbite vs. Underbite
Many people confuse these two conditions, since they both involve upper teeth that sit behind lower ones. However, look closely enough and you’ll spot the difference. In a crossbite, only some of the upper front teeth sit behind the lower arch. But in an underbite, all the upper front teeth sit behind the lower ones.
Either way, however, braces are a good option, since they can treat underbite as well.
What Causes Crossbite?
Crossbite can stem from either genetic or circumstantial causes. Children often develop crossbites because of a misshapen jaw, teeth erupting at irregular angles, or birth defects like cleft lips or palate. If a child sucks their thumb or uses a pacifier past age three, they’re also at risk of developing a crossbite. Tongue thrusting (pushing it against the backs of your teeth), excessive nail biting, or chewing on objects like pens may also contribute.
But while crossbites often appear at a young age, they can also persist into adulthood. You can even develop one as an adult. If you experience a jaw injury, it might not heal in the same position, throwing off your alignment.
Are Braces Effective for Crossbite?
The short answer: yes. They’re sturdy, durable, and can incorporate appliances like elastics and expanders to help make more significant or complex tooth and jaw shifts. In some cases, an orthodontist will supplement treatment with tooth extraction, as overcrowded teeth can interfere with crossbite correction.
If your crossbite is caused by a misalignment of the upper and lower jaws, you may also require the use of a palatal expander — typically for about six months — before getting braces. Although most commonly used on children, palatal expanders can make a significant difference for adults with narrow palates as well. These devices widen the upper jaw, allowing the upper and lower arches to move into the desired position before braces complete the alignment process.
Braces can handle a variety of crossbites, but they’re not ideal for every case. Exceptionally severe cases might require surgical intervention instead. But if your crossbite is mild or moderate, braces can deliver significant jaw transformations.
Types of Braces
Twenty years ago, if you wanted to alter your smile, traditional metal braces were pretty much the only option. However, the orthodontic industry has come a long way in the past couple of decades. Now, you have a whole range of options to choose from. Here are the four main types of braces available today.
Traditional Metal Braces
The end result of a long history of innovation in orthodontia, metal braces in their present form came onto the scene around the mid-1970s. In the decades since, traditional braces have remained orthodontists’ go-to treatment for crafting beautiful smiles.
Though many adults today opt for more discreet straightening appliances — like clear aligners — standard metal braces still have a lot going for them. Treating patients with standard braces doesn’t require an orthodontist to obtain any extra training or purchase special equipment, and those savings mean they can often offer lower prices. Plus, it’s often easier to find an orthodontist who can confidently administer your treatment, as orthodontists typically have the most experience working with metal braces.
Standard braces are also extremely versatile, and better suited for treating complex bite issues than some newer dental technologies. The average cost for braces ranges from $3,000 to $7,000, and treatment typically lasts 12–30 months. Since crossbite correction is typically more involved than standard teeth straightening, your treatment will likely fall on the higher side of that range, both in terms of cost and duration — but it depends on the severity of your crossbite.
3M — the company behind Scotch tape and Post-Its — introduced the first clear braces in 1987. While early models were less effective at adjusting teeth, the technology has come a long way in the past 30+ years. Today, clear braces can match the power of their metal counterparts.
Clear braces work just like metal ones, but offer a sleeker aesthetic that many adults prefer, since the translucent ceramic brackets blend in with the teeth. Although clear braces typically incorporate a metal arch wire, and the brackets are often slightly larger, they’re still less noticeable than metal braces. Some people also find that the ceramic brackets are less sharp and abrasive on the cheeks and gums.
On the downside, not all orthodontists offer clear braces, so it could be difficult to find a provider. Clear braces are also typically around 10%–20% more expensive than metal ones. That said, they have approximately the same treatment duration (12–30 months), and are just as effective in correcting mild-to-moderate cases of crossbite.
Unlike clear braces, lingual braces are totally hidden from the rest of the world, since they’re situated behind your teeth instead of in front. You may be thinking, “that’s brilliant, how is this the first I’m hearing of it?” Well, there are a few reasons lingual braces aren’t more popular.
First of all, most orthodontists don’t offer them, since they’re harder to affix and adjust, and they require specialized training and equipment. From the patient perspective, lingual braces can create discomfort around the tongue, which can give you a minor lisp. Maintaining good oral hygiene takes more effort as well, because it’s harder to brush and floss around the brackets.
All that said, lingual braces are generally just as effective as standard braces for correcting crossbite. Given the extra work involved, this option is usually pretty expensive, often costing between $8,000 and $10,000. If your top priority is keeping your treatment completely invisible and you have the financial means to afford it, lingual braces may be the right choice for you.
Six Month Smiles
Six Month Smiles is a unique brand of clear braces that doesn’t require an orthodontist, just a standard family dentist. As the brand name implies, the average treatment plan is around six months, but that’s because they’re only viable for milder cases. Their clear brackets and tooth-colored wires make them one of the least noticeable braces options available.
Six Month Smiles is only effective in shifting the front teeth, so if your back teeth need correcting, this method may not work for you. That said, they’ve still delivered perfect realignments for many folks with mild crossbites.
Due to the shorter treatment time, Six Month Smiles is less expensive than other types of braces, averaging between $3,500 and $5,000. If you have a mild crossbite that affects only your front teeth, Six Month Smiles may be a viable option. Just keep in mind that your treatment may take longer than six months (since bite issues are more difficult to correct) and land on the higher end of the price range above. Learn more in our full review of Six Month Smiles.
How Do Adult Braces Feel?
Regardless of your age or the type of braces you choose, braces can certainly cause some discomfort, especially as your teeth adjust to initial placement and periodic tightening.
To minimize pain and reduce the risk of breaking a bracket, you’ll need to stay away from particularly hard or sticky foods — like chips, taffy or hard candy — as well as habits like nail-biting and gum-chewing. It’s also important to maintain good oral hygiene and use all dental appliances as instructed.
You may perceive some added stigma around getting braces as an adult, but the truth is, it’s a very common treatment at any age. Plus, between ceramic braces, lingual braces, and alternatives like clear aligners, there are more ways than ever to adjust your smile discreetly.
In the end, if crossbite correction treatment is something you’re pursuing for the sake of your own comfort and happiness, it should be easy to remember that the long-term payoff will be well worth the temporary discomfort!
Other Crossbite Treatments
While braces are a fantastic option for treating most cases of adult crossbite, some people don’t love the idea of wearing braces, or are put off by the price. If that sounds like you, there are a couple of other unobtrusive treatment options available.
In-Office Clear Aligners
When Invisalign was founded in 1997, it started the clear aligner revolution. This treatment uses a series of customized plastic trays to make incremental dental shifts, correcting crowding, spacing, and bite misalignments like crossbite. To address more severe issues, doctors might pair the trays with elastics, expanders, or other appliances and procedures. Unlike braces, Invisalign and their competitors are available to standard dentists, not just orthodontists — so you can potentially get your teeth straightened by the same person who cleans them.
The most notable differences between clear aligners and braces is that clear aligners are 1) removable, and 2) much more discreet. Clear aligner trays can shift your teeth and realign your bite about just as quickly as braces, and for approximately the same price ( $3,500–$8,000). However, Invisalign isn’t the only option. ClearCorrect, 3M Clarity Aligners, and SureSmile are among several equally effective alternatives.
If you’re interested, learn more about some of the top brands in our guide to the six best clear aligners.
At-Home Clear Aligners
In recent years, companies like SmileDirectClub and Byte have taken the Invisalign model and made it cheaper and more convenient. These companies cut out office visits completely, instead using remote dental teams to analyze your teeth and create your aligners, which they deliver straight to your door. However, without any in-person supervision, these services can only treat mild-to-moderate conditions, and some cases of crossbite are too complex for them.
Home aligners are significantly less expensive than braces or Invisalign, with an average price of $1,800–$2,000. The companies that sell home aligners typically provide an opportunity to review your expected results before purchasing a full course of treatment, so you’ll know exactly what to expect before moving forward. But if everything lines up, home teeth alignment might be a perfect solution for your mild crossbite.
If you think at-home aligners might work for your crossbite, check out our recommendations for the top five brands.
Beyond Standard Treatment Options
Orthodontists typically reserve corrective jaw surgery for severe crossbites that are skeletal in nature, which means the misalignment is caused by a significant displacement of the jawbone. This procedure shifts the upper jaw into the desired position for a drastic adjustment to one’s bite and facial appearance. In any case, jaw surgery should only be considered when palatal expansion and dental realignment cannot produce sufficient results.
This is a pretty significant form of surgery. Besides being expensive, it also comes with a long recovery. Fortunately, most cases of crossbite don’t require surgical intervention, and respond well to the options discussed above. If you have a very severe crossbite, an orthodontist can help you determine if surgery is warranted.
Regardless of the cause or severity of your crossbite, your dentist may recommend braces, and for good reason: this long-standing dental technology can produce powerful and sustainable dental transformations. If you’re considering corrective treatment, make sure you choose a physician who’s dedicated to finding a treatment option that reflects your top priorities — whether they’re aesthetic, budgetary, time-sensitive, or otherwise.
Remember, crossbite is rarely a medical concern, so consider your personal desires and holistic well-being when choosing a corrective treatment. We hope this guide provided you with some helpful insight for your future dental decisions!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best treatment for crossbite?
It depends entirely on the severity of your case. Orthodontic treatments like braces or clear aligners can work for most cases, but the most severe ones can require surgery instead. Your orthodontist will let you know which route they recommend after examining your teeth and jaw.
What happens if I don’t fix my crossbite?
If you have a mild crossbite, you might not notice many symptoms, but if left untreated, it can cause uneven wear on your enamel, leading to tooth decay, gum disease, cavities, and other oral hygiene issues. You might also experience jaw pain and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
How do you know if you have a crossbite?
If some — but not all — of your upper front teeth sit behind the lower ones, or some of your upper back teeth sit behind your lower ones, you have a crossbite. Even if it’s just one or two teeth, a crossbite can still cause jaw pain, difficulty eating and speaking, headaches, and uneven enamel wear.
Are crossbites serious?
They’re not anything you need to rush to the hospital over. However, they often require attention, since untreated cases can cause issues, including tooth decay, gum disease, chronic jaw pain, and even tooth loss.
What causes crossbite?
Crossbites have several possible causes. Genetics can play a role, like if you were born with irregularly sized jaws or teeth that come in crooked. However, habits like excessive nail-biting, tongue thrusting, or chewing on objects like pens can cause it as well. Children who suck their thumbs or use pacifiers past age three are also at risk.
Can clear aligners correct crossbite?
Yes! In-office clear aligners like Invisalign are effective in correcting mild and moderate cases of crossbite. At-home clear aligner treatments like Byte and SmileDirectClub, however, can only treat mild cases, since they lack attachments and in-person oversight.
How long does it take to fix a crossbite?
It depends on the severity of your case, but it often takes braces or Invisalign 12–30 months to fix a crossbite. However, your treatment might fall outside that range. The milder your case, the shorter your timeline usually is.