Teeth crowding refers to a condition in which neighboring teeth overlap one another to some degree, creating a crooked appearance in the dental arch(es). In many cases, crowding is caused by a discrepancy between the size of the jaw and teeth, while in others it’s the result of teeth simply growing in displaced or improperly rotated. Although very common and often harmless, crowded teeth can get in the way of successful flossing and brushing, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease down the road.
Medical concerns aside, though, some people with crowded teeth say they’re not as comfortable with their smile, which is reason enough to consider corrective treatment. Fortunately, many treatment options are available for teeth crowding, and braces are one of the most commonly-recommended methods for adults. In this guide, we’ll dive into the details of correcting teeth crowding with braces, the various types of braces that exist today, and some alternative options if braces aren’t the right fit for you.
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Are Braces Effective for Teeth Crowding?
Yes! Braces are an extremely effective option for treating crowding issues, and can produce powerful results in adults and adolescents alike. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that teeth crowding comes in a wide range of forms, and the efficacy of this treatment method will depend on your particular case.
If you have a mild case of crowding in which the teeth are misaligned but not disproportionate to the size of the jaw, braces should be able to straighten your teeth in a matter of months. However, if your crowding is the result of an undersized jaw or accompanied by additional alignment issues such as open bite, crossbite, or abnormal tooth eruption, a more complex treatment plan may be necessary.
But don’t be alarmed — even if your crowding is caused or accompanied by one of the conditions above, correction is still totally viable. Getting braces will put you in the perfect environment for getting any additional corrective treatments that are deemed necessary. Whether your case calls for tooth shaving, extraction, palatal expansion, or jaw realignment, a qualified orthodontist should be able to customize a treatment plan that works for you.
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 aligning crowded teeth.
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.
The average cost for treatment with braces ranges between $3,000 and $7,000, and average treatment time is 18 to 30 months. Since teeth crowding varies based on severity and underlying cause, it’s difficult to say where in this range your particular case will fall. That said, if your crowding is mild and unaccompanied by significant bite issues, you should be able to align your smile fairly quickly and without breaking the bank.
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 generally just as effective for correcting crowded teeth — 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 just as effective as standard braces for correcting teeth crowding. Given the extra work involved, they tend to be more expensive than other options, often costing upwards of $10,000 for a full course of treatment. Again, if your case is fairly mild, you may end up with a price quote that’s a bit easier to swallow.
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, these 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).
Six Month Smiles braces utilize clear brackets and tooth-colored wires, making them one of the least noticeable types of braces available. Plus, due to the shorter treatment time, they tend to be less expensive than the other options above, averaging between $3,500 and $5,000 for a six-month course of treatment.
It’s worth noting that these braces are most effective in cases where only the front teeth need much adjusting. Since many cases of crowding don’t require significant realignment of the back teeth, Six Month Smiles has become a popular correction method for this type of misalignment, and may very well be a viable option for you.
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 corrective 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 Teeth Crowding be Treated Without Braces?
While braces are a fantastic option for treating most cases of teeth crowding, 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 aligning crowded and crooked teeth. Like braces, Invisalign treatment can be paired with tooth shaving, extraction and additional dental appliances to help correct more sophisticated alignment 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 teeth crowding 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’re looking for the most discreet and affordable option for straightening out the crowded spots in your smile, home aligners might be the right choice for you.
Orthodontists typically recommend braces for treating crowded teeth due to their proven efficacy. Not only can braces shift severely misaligned teeth back into place, but they can also resolve corresponding bite issues. That said, traditional braces are no longer the only option for correcting teeth crowding, and there are several other less invasive and conspicuous treatment methods available today.
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, dental crowding is rarely cause for serious 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!