Wondering if you can get braces on just a few teeth? The good news is that, yes, partial braces are definitely a thing! While full braces are usually the go-to solution, there are situations when partial braces can be the better option. For instance, if you have just one or two teeth that need a minor adjustment.
You should know, though, that trying to correct just one tooth can be a bit like “spot reducing” when losing weight – it’s rarely that simple. Your teeth work as a team, and fixing only one tooth might end up affecting the neighboring teeth. So this is why partial braces work on a minimum of 4 teeth, usually 6.
You’ll learn all about them in this article, how they’re used for adults vs. kids, how much they cost, and more! So let’s get started.
What are Partial Braces?
Partial braces are a type of orthodontic treatment that focuses on correcting only a specific section of your teeth, typically just one arch (top or bottom). They consist of 4 to 6 brackets glued on the front teeth with a wire running through them. Alternatively, you could get lingual partial braces that sit behind the teeth.
Partial braces are ideal for people who’ve worn braces before but their front teeth have slightly shifted (relapsed), or for those who have an okay bite and just need a bit of cosmetic work.
Pros and Cons
- Targeted treatment: Partial braces allow you to address specific concerns without the need for a full set of braces.
- Cost-effective: Since they cover fewer teeth, partial braces can be more budget-friendly compared to full braces.
- Shorter treatment time: Partial braces typically require fewer wires, so you’ll see results faster.
- Limited scope: Partial braces might not be suitable if you have more complex dental issues or need adjustments across both your top and bottom teeth.
- Retention required: Just like full braces, you’ll need to wear a retainer after your treatment to maintain the results.
Are They Worth It?
Yes, partial braces can be worth it, especially if you’re looking to make minor cosmetic corrections to your front teeth and your bite is otherwise good. They can also serve as a temporary treatment for kids who are self-conscious about their teeth until it’s time for full braces.
However, it’s important not to have unrealistic expectations about these types of braces. Partial braces will NOT widen your arch or fix a slanted smile. If you have a bit of an overjet (buck teeth), partial braces can make it worse. So there are plenty of these details to consider, and things that your orthodontist should warn you about.
Partial Braces for Adults
You can get partial braces as an adult, too. If you’ve had braces before but had trouble wearing your retainer, or just gave it up altogether, partial braces can be a good idea to undo the damage. It all depends on how much your teeth have shifted and if your bite has already been corrected.
Remember, partial braces fix JUST the front teeth, I don’t recommend getting them if you have complex bite issues such as:
- Moderate to significant overjet
- Significant overbite
- Moderate to severe crowding
- Moderate to severe spacing
- TMJ issues
Now let’s talk about the types of partial braces out there. You can typically choose between traditional braces on the front surface of your teeth or lingual braces.
With traditional partial braces, you can get either metal or ceramic brackets, but I do recommend you avoid ceramic brackets for your bottom teeth. This is because there’s rarely enough clearance, and the top teeth can hit your brackets, which can either chip your top teeth or ruin your braces.
Lingual partial braces (also known as Social 6 Braces) are fixed on the back surface of the teeth and are virtually invisible. Lingual partial braces are ideal for adults, especially for the bottom arch, since the top teeth can be a little tricky to bond because of the same clearance problem.
As for the timeline, you can expect the treatment to take anywhere from 3 to 6 months for full correction. Not too bad, right? Once your teeth are all lined up and looking great, you’ll receive a retainer to maintain the new position of your teeth. You can read all about retainers in this section of the blog.
Partial Braces for Kids
You may have seen children wearing partial braces while they still have baby teeth. We typically use partial braces as an early intervention before kids get their full braces in their teenage years. This includes closing gaps after palatal expansion, fixing high canines, aligning crooked teeth, or pulling back protruding incisors.
Partial braces on kids are a little different, meaning they don’t just focus on the front teeth. Sometimes, they include brackets on the molars as well. These could be molar tubes or molar bands, which help pull the teeth back when necessary.
Just like with adults, treatment times are shorter, but the results need to be maintained, and the only way to do that is by wearing a retainer. This can be tricky for a growing patient and can feel like a bit of a burden for both parents and their youngsters.
Another thing to consider is that your child will likely still need full braces later on as their permanent teeth come in and their bite needs adjusting. This might mean double the orthodontic treatment time. So, while partial braces can be helpful in some situations, they might not always be the perfect solution.
How Much Do Partial Braces Cost
The cost of partial braces will depend on factors like location, materials, and orthodontist fees. Typically, partial braces are half the price of conventional braces (or less), but the cost can still vary a lot. Usually, the price range is between $1500 and $5000. Keep in mind that this is just for the braces on one arch.
After the braces have done their magic, you’ll likely need a retainer to maintain your new and improved smile. Retainers typically cost around $150-$500 per arch. The type of retainer, whether it’s a fixed or removable one (or both), can influence the price as well.
Partial Braces Alternatives
If the idea of fixed brackets, even on just a few teeth, doesn’t appeal to you, the other way to achieve targeted correction is through clear aligners. If you only want (and need) minor corrections, this translates into fewer aligner trays, which means the treatment time will be shorter and it will cost you less.
Clear aligners like Invisalign are a fantastic option for minor issues because they’re fully customizable, so you won’t have to wait for a wire to do the job. Aligners are also conveniently removable, and you can barely see them on your teeth.
The only downside is that they come with a higher price tag, but if you shop around, I’m sure you’ll find a good provider. So good luck fixing that tooth that’s bothering you, let’s hope your treatment is fast and smooth!