The orthodontic industry has evolved to become much more inclusive and easily accessible for young adults. Even as recently as a decade ago, there were far fewer treatment options available to suit a variety of lifestyles and budgets. But with all the modern options on the market today, there’s no reason for anyone to be stuck with a smile they aren’t 100% happy with.
Especially if your primary concern is teeth crowding or spacing, there are several treatment options out there that are probably cheaper and more convenient than you’d think. We’ve compiled a list of the 7 best treatments for adult teeth straightening — some well-known, and some you might not have heard of before. Read on to find out which option might be the right fit for you!
Top 7 Teeth Straightening Options
1) Clear Aligners (In-Office)
Clear aligners are one of the most popular treatment options for young adults because they offer a less visible alternative to traditional orthodontic treatments (like braces). Clear aligners are made of a unique plastic material that’s customized to fit your teeth, and look very similar to clear retainers. The most popular brands of in-office clear aligners are Invisalign and ClearCorrect. Invisalign still leads the industry as the “original clear aligner system.”
The first step of treatment is an evaluation of your teeth and gums. Your dentist will take impressions, photos, and x-rays of your teeth, which will help in designing your treatment plan. This step also helps to ensure there are no underlying issues that may complicate treatment. Then, the dentist will send your impressions to a dental lab to create a series of aligners specifically designed to correct your case.
You’ll change aligners about once every 2 weeks. Over time, your teeth will shift and become more ideally aligned. Eventually, these changes will result in your new and improved smile.
Both Invisalign and ClearCorrect require patients to wear their aligners for 22 hours per day, only taking them out to eat or drink (except water). Treatment with in-office clear aligners typically takes 12 – 18 months and costs between $3,000 – $8,000.
Advantages of In-Office Clear Aligners
- Inconspicuous: Although not completely invisible, clear aligners offer a much more discreet option than more traditional treatments.
- Low maintenance: Clear aligners are removable, which means it will be easier to properly brush/floss your teeth and maintain good oral hygiene.
- Widely available: Invisalign is the leading brand of clear aligners and is offered by most dentists and orthodontists.
- Comfort: You may experience some discomfort when switching aligners. However, the lack of brackets and wires means less irritation of the cheeks, lips, and gums.
Disadvantages of In-Office Clear Aligners
- Limited versatility: Mild-to-moderate cases of misalignment are the best candidates for treatment. More severe cases of misalignment and most bite issues are not suitable for clear aligners.
- High cost: In-office clear aligners typically cost about the same or slightly more than traditional braces. Financing options are limited, and insurance usually does not cover clear aligner treatment.
- Limited time for eating: Clear aligners should be worn for 22 hours per day, so you may need to limit meal times or the number of times you eat per day.
Who Is A Good Candidate For In-Office Clear Aligners?
In-office clear aligners are best for people who would like a less visible treatment option and who prefer to have treatment monitored by a dental professional. Invisalign and ClearCorrect work best for mild-to-moderate cases of teeth crowding/spacing, and mild-to-moderate bite issues (like underbite or crossbite).
Clear aligners are best for people who can commit to wearing them for the full 22 hours per day. For this reason, frequent snackers or people who tend to take longer to eat their meals might need to change their habits or look into other options.
2) At-Home Clear Aligners
At-home teeth aligners from companies like SmileDirectClub are very similar to in-office aligners. However, unlike Invisalign and ClearCorrect, home aligners don’t require ongoing trips to the dentist.
Home teeth aligners are customized by a licensed dentist or orthodontist, but treatment is entirely self-administered from the comfort of your own home. Home aligners provide the most convenient treatment option — by far. So, if the hassle (and cost!) of going to the dentist once a month is what’s keeping you from pursuing treatment, home aligners could be the perfect fit for you.
Home aligners and Invisalign have comparable treatment wear schedules. You must wear your aligners for 22 hours per day, only removing them to eat or drink (except water). However, unlike Invisalign, home aligner treatment only takes an average of 6 months. As a result, home aligners are the premier choice for anyone who is seeking quick and convenient results. Due to the lack of office visits, home aligners are also much cheaper than traditional orthodontics. The average cost of treatment is about $1,900.
Advantages of At-Home Clear Aligners
- Convenient: At-home aligners require no office visits. So, people with a busy schedule will be able to complete treatment without having to fit dental appointments into their calendar.
- Affordable: At-home aligners are much cheaper than traditional braces and in-office alternatives. Most providers also offer financing and payment plans to accommodate a variety of budgets.
- Fast treatment time: With an average treatment time of just 6 months, home aligners are one of the quickest treatment options available
Disadvantages of At-Home Clear Aligners
- Not suitable for complex cases: Home aligners are best for mild-to-moderate cases of misalignment. People with more severe misalignments or bite issues are usually not a good fit.
- Newer treatment option: At-home aligners were introduced to the public less than 5 years ago. Since they are such a new treatment, there are more risks involved.
- No In-Person Care: Because they eliminate office visits, home aligner treatment doesn’t include any face-to-face care from a dentist or orthodontist.
Who Is A Good Candidate For At-Home Clear Aligners?
Home aligners are an excellent option for someone who prioritizes a short treatment time and cheaper alternative to more popular clear aligners like Invisalign. Unfortunately, at-home aligners are limited in the complexity of cases they can treat.
While home aligners can confidently correct instances of mild-to-moderate crowding and spacing, those with more severe cases are typically not considered a good fit. People with bite issues, like overbite or overjet, are also not suitable candidates. However, if you are only seeking minor cosmetic corrections, home aligners are an affordable and convenient option.
Our three favorite home aligner companies are byte, Candid, and AlignerCo. Each one has its own advantages, such as free aftercare retainers and financing without a required credit check. If you’d like to learn more details about each provider, check out our comprehensive guide here.
3) Traditional Braces
Given the rise of new, innovative orthodontic treatments, traditional braces often get a bad rap. However, there’s no reason to cross braces off your list of treatment options. Traditional braces are a classic for a reason: they’re the most comprehensive and effective treatment available.
Braces can treat a variety of complex misalignments and bite issues. So, they’re often recommended to people who aren’t considered a good fit for less conventional treatments, like home aligners or Invisalign.
Advantages of Traditional Braces
- Effective for complex cases: Traditional braces can treat even the most severe cases of misalignment or bite issues.
- Customizable: You’ll be able to choose the color of the bands on your brackets. Choose your favorite colors or opt for clear bands for a less visible option.
- Durable: Traditional braces are very strong. So, you won’t have to worry about your brackets chipping or cracking due to normal wear.
- Consistent: Traditional braces are attached to the teeth and can’t be removed at home. So, unlike clear aligners, you won’t have to worry about remembering to keep them in.
Disadvantages of Traditional Braces
- Uncomfortable: Because of their brackets, traditional braces can cause some irritation to the cheeks and gums, especially during the beginning of treatment.
- Difficult to clean: Learning to brush and floss with braces can be a challenge. Foodand plaque can get trapped in the brackets and wires fairly easily. So, it’s essential to have a good oral hygiene routine.
- Can’t eat certain foods: Sticky, chewy, and very crunchy foods can loosen or damage your wires and brackets. This may cause irritation or even prolong treatment.
- Very visible: Traditional metal braces are fairly noticeable. If you think you’ll be self-conscious or feel awkward with braces, they may not be an ideal choice.
Who Is A Good Candidate for Traditional Braces?
Traditional braces are best for people who are looking for a very comprehensive treatment. And, one that will correct moderate-to-severe misalignments and bite issues. If the idea of wearing braces as an adult makes you uncomfortable, you may be better off with a more discreet option.
Likewise, if you don’t think you can commit to learning how to floss and brush around your braces, a lower maintenance option like clear aligners will likely be more suitable. However, if you don’t mind the look of braces and prefer to receive the most extensive treatment available, they could be a great choice.
4) Ceramic Braces
Ceramic braces are very similar to traditional braces, but they have one significant advantage: ceramic braces have transparent or tooth-colored brackets instead of metal ones. Even the wires used for ceramic braces are offered in an off-white shade. Overall, ceramic braces are a much more discreet option for young adults.
Often called “clear braces,” ceramic braces can treat many of the same issues as traditional braces. However, due to the more innovative material, ceramic braces tend to cause less discomfort and work slightly faster than traditional braces. So, you’ll enjoy a quicker and more comfortable treatment. Unfortunately, ceramic braces typically cost more than traditional braces, usually between $4,000 – $8,000.
Six Month Smiles: Clear brackets and tooth-colored wires are also available in “Six Month Smiles” treatment, which provides a significantly expedited treatment plan. Treatment only takes an average of 6 months to complete because the primary purpose is to create a more aesthetically pleasing smile rather than to address major alignment issues. So, more severe misalignments (or cases involving bite issues) are typically not considered a good fit. The average cost of treatment with Six Month Smiles is about $4,000.
Advantages of Ceramic Braces
- Less visible: Ceramic braces aren’t entirely invisible, but they’re much less noticeable than traditional braces
- More comfortable: Ceramic braces are usually more comfortable than traditional braces. The innovative material used for the brackets causes less irritation than metal.
- Comprehensive treatment: Like traditional braces, treatment with ceramic braces is overseen by an orthodontist and includes routine office visits to ensure quality treatment.
Disadvantages of Ceramic Braces
- Easily stained: Since they’re made of a clear material, ceramic braces can stain easily. Because of this, it’s recommended to avoid stain-inducing foods/drinks, such as red wine and coffee.
- Cost: Ceramic braces usually cost about $1,000 more than traditional braces.
Who Is A Good Candidate for Ceramic Braces?
Ceramic braces are best for people who prefer comprehensive treatment overseen by an orthodontist but want a less visible option. Ceramic braces can treat a wide variety of problems, including most cases of crowding and spacing, and even some bite issues. However, it’s also important to note the higher cost of ceramic braces.
If you think that the advantages of less visibility and discomfort will be worth the higher price tag, ceramic braces could be a great choice. Still, if you only have a mild-to-moderate case of misalignment, a cheaper option like Invisalign may be a better fit.
5) Lingual Braces
Lingual braces are the most hidden form of braces available. Although they have the same brackets and wires as traditional braces, lingual braces are placed on the back of the teeth as opposed to the front. Lingual braces are nearly invisible to the untrained eye. For people who don’t think ceramic braces will be discreet enough, lingual braces provide a great alternative.
The cost of treatment for lingual braces is typically about $8,000 – $10,000, so they are far from an affordable option. Still, if your primary apprehension with braces is visibility, lingual braces may be the perfect fit for you.
Advantages of Lingual Braces
- Inconspicuous: Lingual braces are hidden behind the teeth and are virtually invisible.
- Customizable: Lingual braces can be customized to fit perfectly along the back of your teeth, reducing some discomfort.
- Consistent: Lingual braces are hidden, but attached to the teeth just like traditional braces. So, unlike clear aligners, lingual braces are constantly working to straighten your teeth.
- No visible staining: Since the brackets are only placed behind the teeth, any staining due to poor hygiene won’t be very noticeable.
Disadvantages of Lingual Braces
- Cost: Lingual braces are much more expensive than traditional and ceramic braces and can cost up to $10,000 in some cases.
- Irritation: Brackets on the back of the teeth tend to irritate the tongue and gums.
- Difficult to clean: Learning to brush and floss around your brackets may be challenging since they’re difficult to see.
Who Is A Good Candidate for Lingual Braces?
Lingual braces are best for people who want the least visible form of braces possible. Although they are a pricey option, they are, no doubt, the most invisible. So, if visibility is your number one concern, lingual braces may be worth the high cost.
Lingual braces are typically a good fit for most cases of crowding and spacing. However, more severe cases of misalignment or critical bite issues may place too much pressure on the brackets and cause them to pop off. For this reason, ideal candidates for lingual braces typically have less complicated issues to correct.
Bonding is a less popular treatment option, but it stands out for its affordable price and almost instant results. Dental bonding involves the use of a resin-material, similar to what’s used for filling cavities, to make small, mostly cosmetic changes to your smile. Bonding is most often used to correct irregularly-shaped teeth and eliminate spaces or chipping. Treatment only takes about an hour to complete, so you’ll only need to schedule one appointment with your dentist.
Dental bonding is also the most affordable treatment option on this list. The average cost of treatment varies, but you can expect to pay $200 – $500 per tooth. So, if you only want to make very minor changes to your smile, bonding could be an excellent choice for your budget.
Advantages of Bonding
- Cost: Dental bonding is one of the most affordable treatment options available.
- Fast treatment time: Usually, only one office visit is required for dental bonding treatment. And, the appointment typically only lasts about an hour.
- Painless: Dental bonding treatment is not invasive. So, the procedure is virtually painless, and no anesthesia is required.
- Instant results: Dental bonding provides nearly instant results. Once the procedure is over, you can flash your new smile immediately- no downtime required.
Disadvantages of Bonding
- Durability: Dental bonding material is sturdy, but nowhere near as durable as porcelain veneers or dental crowns. So, you may need to be careful eating or biting down on hard foods to avoid chipping or breaking the bonding.
- Results are not long-lasting: Dental bonding typically lasts about 4-8 years before it will need to be replaced.
- Not stain-resistant: The material used for bonding is not stain-resistant, so you may notice some discoloration if you regularly drink things like coffee or red wine.
Who Is A Good Candidate for Bonding?
Dental bonding is best for people who have a smaller budget and aren’t looking for drastic results. So, if you have a small chip or gap between your teeth, bonding will likely be a great option. Patients with short or irregularly-shaped teeth can also benefit from bonding. Your dentist can build up the teeth to create a more flattering shape and overall smile.
Unfortunately, most cases of teeth crowding are not a good fit for dental bonding. Bonding only alters the shape of the teeth, not their position in the mouth. So, the treatment can’t be used to straighten your teeth if they are crowded.
If you’re looking for a complete smile makeover, it doesn’t get any better than veneers. Often used to create the classic “Hollywood Smile,” veneers are (typically) porcelain shells that are placed over the teeth to correct a variety of issues, including spacing, crowding and discoloration/staining. The treatment process for veneers is quick, but it requires quite a commitment.
Before cementing the veneers onto your teeth, your dentist will likely need to “prep” them by shaving down a small layer of enamel. The process is irreversible, so you need to be absolutely sure that you’re ready to commit to treatment. Depending on the severity of your condition, your dentist may need to shave down more or less enamel. However, a small amount is usually required.
In some cases, no-prep veneers can be used, which don’t require any prep work. But, you’d need to consult your dentist to find out if you’re a good candidate. In either case, veneers do not come cheap. At about $1,000 – $2,000 per tooth, veneers are the priciest option on this list, but they’re also the most transformative.
Advantages of Veneers
- Instant results: The process of prepping your teeth and placing the veneers usually only takes one office visit, and then you can immediately flash your new smile.
- Complete transformation: Veneers are customized to fit your face perfectly, and are placed over your natural teeth. So, they can provide a whitening effect while also correcting most cases of crowding and spacing.
- Stain-resistant: Most veneers are porcelain, and the material is stain-resistant. So, you won’t have to worry about your veneers becoming stained easily.
- Long-lasting: Veneers typically last about 10 - 15 years before they need to be replaced.
Disadvantages of Veneers
- Cost: Veneers can be expensive, and insurance rarely covers the cost of treatment.
- Tooth prep is permanent: Most treatments require “prep,” or shaving down of the enamel to make room to place the veneers. The process is irreversible, so your teeth will be permanently shaved down.
- Results are not permanent: Veneers are long-lasting, but they will need to be replaced eventually. This means you’ll likely need to pay the high cost of treatment at least twice in your lifetime.
Who Is A Good Candidate for Veneers
Veneers are perfect for anyone who wants a complete smile makeover. But, you should be aware that veneers are not cheap. So, if you have a smaller budget, a more affordable option, like home aligners, may be a better choice. Also, if your teeth are especially damaged or too small to support the veneers, you may not be a good fit. However, because your teeth will be shaved down to prepare for treatment, veneers can correct most cases of crowding and spacing. So, chances are good that you’ll be a suitable candidate.
Unfortunately though, if you have a bite issue, like an overbite or overjet, veneers will not be able to correct it. Although they will improve the appearance of your smile, veneers aren’t considered to be an orthodontic treatment. Veneers are used to make cosmetic changes to your teeth, so most dentists recommend undergoing orthodontic treatment first, if you have a bite issue.
As you can see, there are several treatment options available for young adults who want to straighten their teeth. Everyone is different, so your treatment should be unique to you.
If cost and convenience are your top concerns, home aligners may be your best choice option. On the other hand, if you’d prefer to get hands-on attention from a dentist throughout your treatment, braces or Invisalign may be a better fit. Either way, it’s always a good idea to consult a dentist for a professional opinion.
We’re confident you’ll be able to find a treatment method that perfectly suits your teeth and your lifestyle. Best of luck to you on your smile journey!