When you imagine your perfect smile after clear aligner treatment, chances are you’re most excited for one or two specific changes. Maybe you just want to straighten some crowding on your lower arch or close a gap between your top two teeth.
If so, you may be thinking that getting aligners for just your top or bottom teeth could be an easier, more convenient approach. But is it?
In this guide, we’ll explain who is a good candidate for “single-arch treatment,” which clear aligner services offer this treatment option, and whether or not it’s more affordable than straightening both arches at once.
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Is it Safe to Straighten Just One of Your Arches?
In some cases—yes, straightening a single-arch is a safe option. However, this often isn’t the best course of action.
Though infrequent, there are cases where single-arch treatment can be appropriate. For example, if you have already had orthodontic treatment in the past, but your teeth have moved out of place, the changes you need might be so minor that single-arch treatment might benefit you.
You could also be a potential candidate for single-arch treatment if you have very minor issues, like small gaps or little crowding. It can also be an effective treatment for some children. Depending on the severity of your condition, your orthodontist or dentist will be able to help determine if single-arch treatment is a viable option.
The main risk of single-arch treatment is potential bite issues. The way your teeth rest together is called occlusion. It’s essential for long-term oral health to keep your occlusion balanced. It can be difficult to understand why a perfectly straight bottom arch may need to also undergo treatment alongside a crooked top arch. The main reason is your occlusion.
If you have gaps in your teeth, those teeth will move backward on your jaw as they are corrected. It’s common to think of teeth straightening as teeth shifting to the side, but they are actually moving backward together. Conversely, when you have crowded teeth, treatment will move the teeth forward on your jaw.
This could lead to disruptions in the harmony of your occlusion. In certain cases, single-arch treatment can create an underbite or overbite that wasn’t there before. Or, in extreme cases, even an open bite. This can happen even if the teeth on your upper or lower arch end up perfectly aligned.
There are, of course, cases where this treatment is the perfect path for combinations of overbite/spacing, or underbite/crowding. But even if you have one of those combinations, it doesn’t necessarily mean that single-arch treatment is the right path forward. It’s important to consult your orthodontist or dentist to determine the best option for you.
If you’re thinking that a little bit of misalignment doesn’t sound like too big of a risk, remember that, if unaddressed, small issues could lead to larger complications down the road like erosion of teeth, problems chewing, TMJ, and even issues with speech.
Is it More Affordable?
Even with innovations in the teeth straightening industry, getting your dream smile can still be a significant expense. No one would blame you for wanting to save a little money in the process. But with single-arch treatment, is it possible?
The short answer: Not really. A large part of your orthodontic treatment’s cost is for a professional’s time and expertise. Even with an at-home clear aligner company, though you aren’t getting face time with a dentist or orthodontist, they are still overseeing your treatment remotely.
Aligner companies still need to consider both arches when creating your treatment, even if they’re only crafting aligners for one. So most companies do not offer a discount for single-arch treatment.
It’s important to ask yourself why you are interested in single-arch treatment. If it is to save money, perhaps an affordable at-home clear aligner company (like AlignerCo) would be a better option for you.
No matter which at-home aligner company you choose, you will still end up with considerable savings over an in-office option. So if savings are your main priority, at-home clear aligners may be a good fit for you and your budget.
Which Clear Aligner Services Allow Single-Arch Treatment?
Clear aligner brands (particularly at-home options) can’t correct jaw and bite issues like in-office treatments. But as we established earlier, single-arch treatment really is only appropriate for mild movements anyway, so don’t count clear aligner companies out when considering this treatment.
Almost every clear aligner service allows a single-arch treatment in some capacity. All of these treatments require you to create teeth impressions or get a teeth scan at a physical location. These will help the provider determine if you are a good candidate for single-arch treatment.
Invisalign and ClearCorrect are both administered in a dentist or orthodontist’s office, and each office has its own policies. For this reason, it can be tough to get an overall sense of their policies and prices for single-arch treatment. It seems like many offices offer single-arch treatment, but it’s rarely deemed the best route forward for a patient.
Many Invisalign providers specified that single-arch treatment is technically possible if the dentist approves it, but this approval is rare. Since Invisalign has no set price even for traditional treatment, it’s very hard to gauge how much you would save (if anything) by choosing them for single-arch treatment.
ClearCorrect is similar. Offices we spoke with said that, in the right circumstances, single-arch treatment might be approved—but that it was very rare. Just like Invisalign, ClearCorrect does not have one set sticker price, so it’s difficult to say if single-arch treatment, if approved, would save much money.
ByteByte does offer single-arch treatment, depending on what they see in your impressions (you will still need to send in both upper and lower impressions). If you are approved for single-arch treatment, you will upload photos to your Byte account with the same frequency as you would with standard treatment, and either a dentist or an orthodontist will oversee your case.
Byte is the only at-home clear aligner company that offers a discount on single-arch treatment. This depends on your specific case but can be up to a $200 discount.
Byte also has a lifetime guarantee on your smile, so if your teeth shift down the line (even years later!) you’ll be able to correct them for free. And if your final results don’t match your original treatment preview, Byte will work with you to finish the job.
SmileDirectClubSmileDirectClub does offer single-arch clear aligner treatment, but again, it depends on their evaluation of your teeth impressions. SmileDirectClub reports that it isn’t rare for people to be approved for this treatment. This single-arch treatment is the same price as their traditional treatment, and it’s overseen by either a dentist or an orthodontist, since SmileDirectClub’s team consists of both.
AlignerCoAlignerCo also offers single-arch treatment, and just like their competitors, they determine if it’s a viable option by evaluating your teeth impressions. It costs the same amount as AlignerCo’s full treatment. However, it’s worth noting that AlignerCo’s prices are the industry’s lowest, just $1,145.
Similar to competitors, AlignerCo’s single-arch treatment doesn’t require any different oversight, just the same remote monitoring as their standard treatment, which is overseen by their team of dentists.
Single-arch treatment is also an option with NewSmile. This is a little surprising, since NewSmile stands out in the industry as having their patient’s progress (in the form of submitted photos) monitored by a customer service team instead of dentists or orthodontists. If their customer service team detects a problem, the photos will be sent to a dentist right away, but for a treatment as delicate as this, it’s best to have the most experienced, qualified individuals overseeing your progress.
Single-arch treatment with NewSmile is the same price as their regular treatment, and they will only recommend it if their team reviews your impressions and decides it’s the right path forward for you.
Single-arch treatment is delicate and rarely administered. However, if you are deemed a good candidate for single-arch treatment, you have several reputable clear aligner providers to choose from—whether it’s an in-office option like Invisalign or ClearCorrect, or an at-home provider like Byte.
Invisalign’s in-person oversight can be helpful with a delicate treatment like this. But if you love the convenience of remote treatment and want to move forward with the confidence of a lifetime guarantee on your smile, look no further than Byte.
However, if you’ve realized that your interest in single-arch treatment was due to cost, appearance, or treatment times, hopefully this article has helped you see that all of those preferences can be addressed with at-home clear aligners, without the added risk of undergoing single-arch treatment.