Over the last two decades, orthodontic treatment has evolved to become much more inclusive and easily accessible for young adults. Even as recently as ten years ago, there were far fewer options available to suit a variety of lifestyles and budgets. But with all the innovative treatments on the market today, there’s no reason for anyone to be stuck with a smile they don’t 100% love.
If your primary concern is teeth crowding or spacing, there are several options out there that are probably cheaper and more convenient than you’d think. We’ve compiled a list of the seven best treatments for adult teeth straightening — some well-known, and a few you might not have heard of before. Read on to find out which one might be the right fit for you!
Top 7 Teeth Straightening Options
1) 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. Online 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, at-home aligners could be the perfect fit for you.
Mail-order aligners and Invisalign have comparable wear schedules. You must wear your aligners for 22 hours per day, only removing them to eat or drink and brush and floss.
However, unlike Invisalign, home aligner treatment only takes an average of six months. As a result, at-home aligners are the premier choice for anyone who is seeking quick and convenient results. Due to the lack of office visits, at-home aligners are also much cheaper than traditional orthodontics, with an average cost of 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 six 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 ten years ago. Since they are such a new treatment, some people worry there isn’t enough evidence that they work.
- 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 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.
Each at-home clear aligner service has its own advantages, such as nighttime-only treatment, free aftercare retainers, and financing without credit checks. If you’d like to learn more details about each provider, check out our comprehensive guide here.
2) In-Office Clear Aligners
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.
Invisalign still leads the industry as the “original clear aligner system,” yet ClearCorrect is a reliable competitor who delivers similar products and results. Then there’s Candid, a former at-home aligner provider who has implemented a unique hybrid model that incorporates remote monitoring. We think all three are great options.
The first step of your 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.
Invisalign, ClearCorrect, and Candid all require patients to wear their aligners for 22 hours per day, only removing them to eat, drink, brush and floss. 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 and 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
- High prices: 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.
3) Permanent Veneers
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. 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.
In some cases, no-prep veneers can be used, 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
- Quick results: The process of prepping your teeth and placing the veneers usually only takes 1-2 office visits, and then you can flash your new smile.
- Complete transformation: Veneers are customized to fit your face perfectly and are placed over your natural teeth. 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 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 need to pay for new veneers several times throughout your life.
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. 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.
Because your teeth will be shaved down to prepare for treatment, veneers can correct most cases of crowding and spacing. 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.
4) Snap-On Veneers
Snap-on veneers (also called “removable” or “no-prep” veneers) are a removable alternative to traditional veneers. These thin, customizable trays are worn on top of your teeth and provide a rapid smile transformation.
Removable veneers don’t carry as high of a price tag as permanent veneers, nor do they require invasive procedures. In fact, most snap-on veneers providers operate remotely. You’ll complete an at-home impression kit, which your provider will use to craft your customized trays.
Advantages of Snap-On Veneers
- Affordable: With Snap-on veneers, updating your entire smile will cost between $299-$2,495. Though still an initial investment, snap-on veneers are a fraction of the cost of permanent veneers.
- Rapid transformation: When you wear your snap-on veneers, you’ll have the appearance of a completely new smile.
- No invasive procedures: Snap-on veneers aren’t attached to your teeth, so your enamel won’t need to be filed down in order to “prep” the tooth. So if you change your mind about snap-on veneers down the line, no sweat!
- Customizable: Most snap-on veneer providers offer several different shades of white to choose from, so you can be sure you’ll find that hue that best suits your look.
Disadvantages of Snap-On Veneers
- Temporary solution: Depending on the materials of your veneers and your habits, snap-on veneers can last anywhere from 1-5 years. Most providers discourage eating while wearing your snap-on veneers, to avoid applying extra force to your appliance.
- Less natural looking: Snap-on veneers are made from acrylic or resin, which isn’t quite as natural as the porcelain used for permanent options.
- Requires high level of oral hygiene: Since snap-on veneers sit on top of your teeth for hours at a time, plaque and bacteria can wear through your enamel if you aren’t vigilant with your oral hygiene.
Who is a Good Candidate for Snap-On Veneers?
Since snap-on veneers are worn over an entire dental arch (instead of attached to individual teeth) this option can often work for people with missing teeth. If you’re looking for a full smile transformation — but want to avoid high prices and invasive procedures of traditional veneers — then snap-on veneers may be worth considering.
Snap-on veneers sit on your teeth for extended periods of time, which prevents saliva from defending your teeth against plaque and bacteria. Because of this, snap-on veneers present a certain degree of risk to your oral health. These veneers require heightened attention to oral hygiene, which means they’re not a good fit for someone with a history of tooth decay or gum disease.
5) 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. Traditional braces are a classic for a reason: they’re the most comprehensive 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. Pick your favorite colors or opt for clear bands for a less visible option.
- Durable: Traditional braces are very strong. 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. Food and plaque can get trapped in and around 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 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.
6) 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, they are a much more discreet option for young adults.
Often called “clear braces,” ceramic braces can treat many of the same issues as traditional brackets. 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 significantly expedited results. 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. It’s recommended that you 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. These 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.
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.
7) 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, they 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 aesthetics are your number one concern, lingual braces could 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.
What About DIY Orthodontics?
When money is an issue, it is tempting to seek out the cheapest solution possible. However, in many cases, this option won’t be safe.
DIY orthodontics is when someone uses homemade appliances to place pressure on the teeth and move them. However, this is incredibly risky. From making alignment worse to actually losing your teeth, there is a lot that can go wrong with this approach. If your goal is to save money, look into affordable but legitimate options and keep an eye out for discounts.
As you can see, there are several treatment options available for young adults who want to straighten their teeth. Everyone is different, so the right option depends on your unique needs and goals.
If cost and convenience are your top concerns, and your condition is mild, at-home aligners may be your best 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!
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes issues with tooth alignment?
In many cases, it is genetic. However, certain habits, like thumb sucking or using a bottle for too long, push the teeth out of alignment. It is also possible that your teeth will migrate if one is lost, since it opens up space for other teeth to fill in.
Can you straighten your teeth as an adult?
Yes, adults can correct their smiles with braces and aligners, just like teens. While there might be special considerations to keep in mind for adults, ultimately, they can benefit from orthodontic treatment.
Does straightening teeth hurt?
It should never be painful, but you will experience soreness. Since braces and aligners place pressure on the teeth, it can cause the ligaments that hold them in place to be tender until they loosen up. Usually, this lasts for a few days with your first aligners or right after braces go on and returns for a few hours with each new aligner set or braces adjustment.
How long does it take to straighten teeth?
This depends on the appliance you have and how complex your tooth alignment issues are. Sometimes, teeth can be moved in as little as 3 months or as long as 36.
Is it expensive to correct teeth alignment?
It isn’t cheap, but some options are more affordable than others. If you want to correct cosmetic issues, at-home aligners will offer you the most affordability.
Are some braces better than others?
No, but some will be better for you than others. For example, traditional metal braces are the most affordable, making them best for those on a tight budget. Ceramic braces are ideal for those worried about the look of braces and who know they won’t damage them.
Are there any conditions that will prevent me from straightening my teeth?
Yes, gum disease, bone loss, and missing teeth can all impact whether or not you can jump right into straightening your teeth or if you need other dental interventions first.
How can I know if mail-order aligners are right for me?
At-home aligner companies have medical practitioners who evaluate your impressions or scans. They only approve clients who are a good fit for their treatments.
Which options are the most convenient teeth straightening methods?
Aligners, both in-office and at-home, are more convenient than braces. We feel that at-home aligners are the most convenient since you don’t need to fit doctor’s visits into your schedule.
Will I need to wear retainers?
Yes, retainers are essential aftercare for all forms of teeth straightening.