Crossbite is a very common type of dental misalignment in which some of the upper teeth sit behind the corresponding lower teeth, while others sit naturally in front. Although it is rarely cause for serious medical concern, crossbite can result in excessive wear on the teeth’s enamel, jaw pain, and speech problems. Aside from the physical side effects, crossbite can also be a source of discomfort with one’s smile, and this is often reason enough to consider corrective treatment.
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 tend to be the go-to protocol. In this guide, we’ll dive into the details of treating crossbite with braces, the different styles of braces that exist today, and some alternative treatment options if braces aren’t the right fit for you.
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Are Braces Effective for Crossbite?
The short answer: yes. Braces are an extremely effective treatment option due to the sturdiness of their design, and their ability to be paired with additional dental appliances such as elastics. In some cases, treatment may also be supplemented 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 6 months) before being fitted for braces. Although most commonly used on children (before the jaw is fully formed), palatal expanders can make a significant difference for adults with narrow palates as well. These devices are used to widen the upper jaw, allowing the upper and lower arches to move into the desired position before braces work to complete the alignment process.
In addition to their ability to produce powerful dental transformations, another great thing about braces is that there are several types to choose from. In the following section, we’ll touch on the differences between each style of braces and explain which are best for treating crossbite.
What Types of Braces Can I Choose From?
Twenty years ago, traditional metal braces were pretty much the only show in town if you wanted to change something about your smile. However, in recent years, there’s been a whole lot of innovation around this dental technology. From ceramic braces (designed to blend in with your teeth) to sublingual braces (placed discreetly on the back of the teeth), there’s now a whole range of options to choose from. Below we’ll discuss the 4 main types of braces that are available today.
Traditional Metal Braces
The end result of a long history of innovation in orthodontistry, metal braces in their present form came onto the scene around the mid-1970s. Over 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, standard metal braces still have a whole lot going for them. For one thing, treating patients with standard braces doesn’t require an orthodontist to obtain any extra training or purchase special equipment, and these savings are often passed along to the customer. Along these same lines, it’s often easier to find an orthodontist who can confidently administer your treatment, as orthodontists typically have the most experience working with this style of braces.
Standard braces are also extremely versatile, and better suited for treating complex bite issues than some newer dental technologies. The average cost for treatment with braces ranges between $3,000 and $7,000, and average treatment time is 18 to 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).
The earliest clear braces were introduced in 1987 by 3M (makers of Scotch tape and many other popular consumer brands). While early models of clear braces were known to be less effective at adjusting teeth, the technology has come a long way in the past 30+ years. Today, clear braces are able to achieve adjustments quite comparable to their metal counterparts.
Clear braces work just like metal braces, but offer a sleeker aesthetic preferred by many adults. This difference in appearance is achieved by replacing the standard metal brackets with translucent, ceramic ones that blend in with the teeth. Although clear braces typically incorporate a metal arch wire, and the brackets tend to be a bit larger, they are overall much less noticeable than standard metal braces. Some people also find that the ceramic brackets are less sharp on the gums and therefore more comfortable to wear.
On the downside, not all orthodontists offer this type of treatment, so it may be somewhat difficult for you to find a local provider if there aren’t many clinics to choose from in your area. Clear braces also tend to be more expensive (around 10%-20% more) than standard metal braces. That said, clear braces have approximately the same treatment duration as standard metal braces (18-30 months), and are just as effective for correcting mild to moderate cases of crossbite — provided that you’re able to locate a qualified orthodontist to administer them!
Unlike clear braces, and even invisible aligners, lingual braces are truly hidden from the rest of the world: these braces are placed on the back of the teeth instead of the 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 this treatment option. This style of braces is more difficult to affix and adjust, and requires specialized training and equipment. From the patient perspective, lingual braces can create uncomfortable pressure around the tongue, which often results in a minor lisp. Maintaining good oral hygiene takes more effort as well, as it can be tricky to brush and floss around the inward facing brackets.
All that said, if you are able to find a local orthodontist who is willing and able to administer them, lingual braces are generally just as effective as standard braces for correcting crossbite. Given the extra work involved, this option tends to be quite expensive, often costing between $8,000 and $10,000 for the full course of treatment. 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 can be applied by a standard family dentist rather than an orthodontist. As the brand name implies, Six Month Smiles braces come with the promise of straighter teeth in 6 months (although sometimes treatment can take an extra month or two to achieve the desired results). These braces’ clear brackets and tooth-colored wires make them one of the least noticeable treatment options available.
Six Month Smiles is most effective at treating cases where only the front teeth need to be adjusted. If you require realignment of both the front and back teeth, Six Months Smiles may not be able to offer the results you’re looking for.
Due to the shorter treatment time, Six Month Smiles is less expensive than other types of braces, averaging between $3,500 and $5,000 for a six-month course of treatment. If you have a mild crossbite that affects only your front teeth, Six Month Smiles may be suitable for you. Just keep in mind that your treatment may take longer than the advertised 6 months (since bite issues are more difficult to correct) and be on the higher end of the price range above.
What is it Like to Wear Braces as an Adult?
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 foods that are particularly hard or sticky (like chips, taffy or hard candy) and certain behaviors (like nail-biting and gum-chewing) for the duration of your treatment. It’s also important to properly care for your teeth as they move, 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 decision to make at any age. Plus, between ceramic braces, lingual braces, and other alternative treatment options (which we’ll discuss in the next section), 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!
Can Crossbite Be Treated Without Braces?
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 other unobtrusive treatment options available.
Invisalign: Invisalign is another highly effective option for correcting adult crossbite. Like braces, Invisalign treatment can be paired with tooth extraction and additional dental appliances to help correct bite issues. However, unlike braces, Invisalign can be provided by a standard dentist (rather than an orthodontist), so there’s a good chance your treatment can be administered at the same place you go to get your teeth cleaned.
Of course, the most notable differences between these treatment methods is that Invisalign is 1) removable, and 2) much more discreet than traditional braces. Invisalign clear aligner trays are able to shift your teeth and realign your bite about equally as quickly as braces, and for approximately the same price (between $3,500-$8,000).
To learn more about treating crossbite with Invisalign, check out our comprehensive guide.
Home Teeth Aligners: In recent years, a number of online companies like Smile Direct Club have entered the industry to provide a more affordable option for adults seeking to straighten their teeth or correct minor bite issues from home. Similar to the Invisalign treatment process, you’ll receive a set of clear, removable aligners customized to your teeth by a dental professional — but unlike Invisalign, your care will be handled entirely remotely and not require any trips to the dentist’s office.
Home alignment products tend to be significantly less expensive than braces or Invisalign, with an average cost of between $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. All in all, if you have a minor case of crossbite, home teeth alignment may be a perfectly viable option for you.
When Standard Options Aren't Enough
Corrective jaw surgery is reserved for severe crossbites that are skeletal in nature, in which the misalignment is caused by a significant displacement of the jawbone. This procedure can work to shift the upper jaw into the desired position for a more noticeable 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. In addition to being quite expensive, it can also take a while to recover from. Fortunately, most cases of crossbite don’t require surgical intervention, and can be effectively handled using one of the options discussed above. If you have a very severe crossbite, an orthodontist can help you determine if surgery is warranted.
Regardless of the severity or cause of your crossbite, your dentist may recommend braces, and for good reason: this long-standing dental technology is able to produce powerful and sustainable dental transformations. If you’re considering corrective treatment, make sure you find a physician who’s dedicated to choosing 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 the choice to pursue corrective treatment should be made with your personal desires and holistic well-being at the center. We hope this guide provided you with some helpful insight for your future dental decisions!