Can you get braces just for your top or bottom teeth?

Medically Reviewed by a
Licensed DDS

Table of Contents

  1. How Braces Help
  2. Recommended Approach
  3. Savings
  4. Twice the Braces
  5. References

Close your eyes and imagine a person wearing braces. Chances are, you think of brackets and wires crisscrossing both upper and lower teeth. But what if you could cut the metal in half and get braces on just the top or lower teeth?

It's common for consumers to consider wearing braces on just half of their mouths. But it's not always smart. Despite what you might think, the approach may not save you money.

More than beauty: how braces help your bite.

A healthy, beautiful smile exposes all of your central and lateral upper incisors, beauty experts say. The rest of your teeth stay covered by your lips when you smile. Shouldn't you focus your braces on the parts of your teeth others can see?

It's critical to remember that your teeth aren't beauty accessories. You also use those teeth for tasks such as:

Talking
Your tongue taps on your teeth for hard consonant sounds, and your voice reverberates and echoes through the enamel. If you have gaps in your teeth or a pronounced overbite, there may be a slight whistling sound when you talk that sounds like a lisp.
Biting
We use sharp front teeth to bite off a mouthful of food.
Chewing
Swallow food without breaking it apart, and you're likely to choke and gag. Back teeth are essential for breaking down food.

Your teeth don't work in isolation. Upper and lower sets come together to form your bite, and even tiny adjustments can have big repercussions.

Adjust just one part of your mouth, and your front and back teeth could come together with excessive force, experts say. You could chip or crack your teeth each time the set comes together. You could also exert too much pressure on your bone and gums.

Conversely, changing just one part of your bite could stop your teeth from meeting at all. A big gap could make chewing impossible, and it could put excess strain on your muscles and tendons.

Minor issues, such as gapping teeth, can be adjusted with just one set of braces or aligners, but most experts recommend treating both your top and bottom teeth at the same time, so you preserve your bite and your oral health.

Will you save money?

Consumers often think of dental treatments as packages. If you cut the needed therapy in half by treating one set of teeth and not the other, you should save money, right? Experts don't always agree.

To adjust your smile, dental professionals must:

Assess Your Teeth
Dental molds, photographs, and more help dental experts identify how your teeth should move.
Create A Plan
Your team must figure out which teeth should move, and they often must assess movement sequences. Some teeth must move first so others can fill in the gaps, for example.
Offer Hardware
Your team must provide braces or aligners to help those teeth move.
Supervise The Moves
Your team must check in with you to ensure that the plan is working and your teeth are shifting.

These same steps apply whether you're moving one set of teeth or both. If you're hoping to skip movement on one arch to save a chunk of money, you might be disappointed.

Orthodontists say, for example, that braces on one arch can cost about $5,000 upfront, while full braces cost about $6,500 upfront.

Twice the braces.

You want to improve your smile, but you want to save money. And you want to ease pain. There are plenty of things you can do to meet your goals without putting your health and your bite at risk.

If you're considering single-arch braces due to these common concerns, it's time to think again.

Cost
Single-arch braces may not save you money. But many aligner companies and orthodontists offer payment plans that help you improve your smile without harming your budget. You can also use health savings accounts (HSAs) and health insurance to help you pay for care.
Discomfort
Moving your teeth can be uncomfortable, but it shouldn't be overly painful. If you're concerned about how much braces will hurt, consider aligners. They won't cut up your lips the way braces might, and many people find that they are more comfortable than braces.
Appearance
Braces on your top and lower teeth are hard to miss. You could opt for porcelain braces, which have white brackets others may not notice. Or you could use clear aligners that are very difficult to spot.
Adjustment Severity
If you're not sure that you need help with both your top and bottom teeth, talk with a dental expert. Let that person explain how your teeth come together and why adjusting your bite is critical. You might find your concerns fade away.

Your smile showcases your beauty. But your teeth are critical to your health.

Don't let misconceptions keep you from the care you need. Ask questions and do your homework to ensure that you get the treatment that's right for your mouth and your health.

References.

Smile Science: The Anatomy of a Smile. (September 2011). Portland Monthly.

Does Your Child Really Need Braces? Reader’s Digest Canada.

Is Single Arch Treatment Good for Your Patients? (October 2017). Orca Dental.

Frequently Asked Questions. Byte.

Orthodontic Treatment Costs. Impression Orthodontics.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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