Getting braces on just your top teeth might make sense to you if you only want a minor correction. Single arch braces are cheaper, more comfortable and the treatment time is shorter compared to full orthodontic treatment. But braces on top teeth only are not for everyone.
Braces on top teeth alone are only possible in certain situations. If your bite is healthy and you only have slight crowding and rotations, you may be a good candidate for top braces. Minimal crowding can be solved with single arch aligners or braces in around 6 to 10 months.
Single arch or one arch treatment, just like the name suggests, is bonding braces or getting aligners on only on side of your mouth – top or bottom. Because this type of treatment tends to negatively impact the bite, orthodontists rarely recommend it.
Your orthodontist will analyze your bite and let you know if you can get braces on just your top teeth, but if you’re curious to learn more about how we select patients, read on.
When can you get braces on just your top teeth?
If you’re unsatisfied with how your top front teeth look, you might be thinking you need braces on your top teeth. But take a close look at your bottom teeth. Are they really perfectly straight?
Many times, when people treat their upper arch, they come back to treat the bottom teeth too, eventually. Treating arches separately is a really bad idea, but for some reason, there are still orthodontists or dentists who do this.
And then there’s the issue of occlusion. Your bite may be off, and you most likely won’t even know about it. It’s best to leave it to your orthodontist to decide whether your teeth are positioned well enough so that you can get braces on your top teeth only.
Getting braces on just your front teeth is a cosmetic treatment that’s only possible if:
You’ve had braces before but your teeth have shifted. Getting braces for the second time is easier because the occlusion is already corrected and stable. Teeth shift for various reasons over the years, most of the time because the patients didn’t wear their retainers. Fortunately, minor issues can be easily fixed, but it’s an expensive mistake to make.
You have mild crowding, rotations, or minimal spacing (gaps). Any crowding under 2-3 mm can usually be treated without any undesirable consequences to the rest of the dentition. When we align teeth, we need space to do so. We get this space through stripping, pushing the teeth forward, or even extractions. The less space we need, the easier it is to correct misaligned teeth.
You have normal or small overjet. Overjet is the space between your top front teeth and bottom front teeth when you squeeze your teeth together. A normal physiological space of about 1-3 mm is ideal for getting top braces. Anything more than that, and the braces will increase the overjet even more. Any moderate to severe overjet needs to be treated with full braces and sometimes may need extractions or surgery.
Your bite is good and you only have misaligned incisors. Having a good, stable bite is really important, and orthodontists focus on this even more than aesthetics. Any misaligned teeth other than incisors will most certainly affect your bite. For example, if you have canines that are too high up, you will most likely need full braces, not just top braces.
When you shouldn’t get top braces only
Single arch treatment can do a few things to your bite. If your arches are narrow, braces can push your top teeth forward and outward, causing them to no longer fit over your bottom teeth. Braces will also change the angles of your front teeth, which will change the way your front teeth come together.
Solving the puzzle of an unhealthy bite is not an easy task, and one arch braces can only make things worse. Here are some scenarios where getting braces on your top teeth alone is not a good idea:
- Moderate to severe crowding. You may need extractions to obtain the necessary space to correct your teeth.
- Moderate spacing. Your teeth may need to be pulled back, or you may need a combination of orthodontic treatment and veneers to close your gaps.
- Malocclusions like open bite, deep bite, underbite, and large overjet. These bite problems require complex tooth movements that are best done with full braces.
Best ways to straighten top teeth
If you’ve decided on top braces and your orthodontist is on board, you have plenty of options to choose from, ranging from high-end and discreet to affordable and functional.
Here is what I recommend for aligning your top teeth:
- Clear aligners. Removable plastic aligners like Invisalign are an excellent option for straightening your top teeth. In fact, aligners are ideal for mild to moderate cases. Correction with clear aligners is planned digitally, which is ideal for moving single teeth where we want them to go. Not to mention they’re comfortable and barely visible.
- Ceramic braces. While ceramic braces on bottom teeth aren’t recommended, they shine on the upper arch. Ceramic braces work just like normal braces, with the added benefit that they look fantastic.
- Metal braces. Aligners and ceramic braces can get expensive, so if you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with metal braces. Hygienic and sturdy, metal braces have stood the test of time as the most efficient and practical braces.
Whatever you choose, remember that your orthodontist is in the driver’s seat, conducting your orthodontic treatment. Braces are just an arsenal of instruments, and your doctor will direct your teeth where they need to go.
Alternatives to top braces
Sometimes, minor changes can have dramatic effects. You may not like the way your teeth look, but are you sure it’s their positions, and not their shape that you don’t like?
Some teeth may have odd shapes, a yellow color, and chipped, or wavy edges. Something as simple as remodeling a tooth’s shape can have an impressive effect on your looks.
At the end of orthodontic treatment, we often resort to other dental ‘tricks’ to make your smile look spectacular. What if we just did those things and skipped braces altogether? Here’s what we can use:
- Enamel reshaping (polishing edges of your teeth with a special burr)
- Composite bonding (fixes stains, chips, gaps, odd shapes and small teeth)
- Veneers (fix gaps, stains, chips, odd shapes, small teeth, minor misalignments)
- Whitening (crowding is less noticeable with an immaculate white smile)
It’s good to know that there are so many ways to enhance your smile and self-esteem. And if you still decide on braces, don’t forget to consider these procedures at the end of your treatment.
I hope you can see that health comes first when deciding to get single arch braces, either top or bottom. Check this article on bottom braces if you’re interested in fixing just your bottom teeth, or doing it separately.
And one last thing – if you’re thinking about cutting costs and just getting half your teeth aligned, that’s not how it works. You’ll still need your case evaluated by an orthodontist, radiographs, chair time, and the cost of braces themselves. Yes, your treatment will be cheaper, but not 50% cheaper.
Whatever you decide, we hope this article has been useful, and we’ll do our best to cover as many of your braces questions as possible.
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