Teeth spacing is a condition characterized by several visible gaps throughout the dental arches. Technically called “diastemas”, gaps between teeth are most often harmless, but can occasionally cause gum problems, difficulty chewing, or other uncomfortable complications. Additionally, some people with spacing issues say they’d be happier with their smile if their teeth were properly aligned.
If the gaps in your smile are causing you any type of discomfort, you may be considering corrective treatment with braces. Nowadays, there are several types of braces and alternative alignment methods for adults seeking to discreetly realign their teeth, each with its own set of unique advantages. In this guide, we’ll dive into the details of correcting teeth spacing 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 Spacing?
Yes! Braces are an extremely effective option for treating spacing issues, and can produce quick results in adults and adolescents alike. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that teeth spacing comes in a wide range of forms, and the efficacy of this treatment method will depend on your particular case.
If you have gaps between only a few teeth and no bite issues or other complications, braces will likely be able to realign your smile in a matter of a few months. On the other hand, if your spacing affects many of your teeth and/or is caused by oversized gums, undersized or missing teeth, overjet, or gum disease, the correction process may take longer or require additional types of treatment.
But don’t be alarmed — even if the gaps between your teeth are caused or accompanied by one of the conditions above, correction is still totally viable. Due to the sturdiness of their design and their ability to be paired with additional dental appliances such as elastics, braces are capable of correcting much more sophisticated problems than spacing issues.
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 excess spacing between 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. Given that spacing issues are significantly easier to correct than bite issues, your treatment will likely fall on the lower end of that range (both in terms of cost and duration). But again, if your teeth spacing is accompanied by a misaligned bite, this could result in a bit longer and more expensive treatment period.
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 most cases of teeth spacing — 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 gaps in the teeth. 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. However, if your case is mild and unaccompanied by any other complications, 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 teeth spacing 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 Spacing be Treated Without Braces?
While braces are a fantastic option for treating most cases of teeth spacing, 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 closing gaps between teeth. Like braces, Invisalign treatment can be paired with 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).
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 spacing 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 closing the gaps in your smile, home aligners might be the right choice for you.
Veneers: A popular alternative to dental realignment, veneers are thin but sturdy pieces of porcelain that bond to your teeth in order to transform your smile instantaneously.
Truth be told, veneers have about as many major upsides as they do downsides for treating teeth spacing. On the plus side, veneers offer the possibility of immediate gratification, and cause much less discomfort than physically shifting your teeth. They’re particularly well-suited for folks whose gaps are the result of undersized teeth. However, veneers are not a permanent solution, as they do not actually correct the underlying spacing issue.
Depending on the type you choose, veneers last anywhere from 7-20 years (after which they need to be replaced), and cost between $500-$2,000 per tooth. If you’re simply seeking a way to enhance the appearance of your smile as quickly as possible, veneers might be worth considering.
Braces are commonly recommended for treating teeth spacing because they offer effective results in a relatively short period of time. However, braces are no longer the only option for correcting spacing issues, 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, having gaps in your teeth is rarely cause for 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!