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How To Straighten Teeth Without Braces

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

This probably won't come as a surprise to you – most people want straight teeth. And for good reason. You're more likely to be complimented for having a beautiful smile and straight teeth are better for your oral health, too. If your teeth aren't currently aligned as well as you'd like them to be, braces are an obvious option. But there are other ways to achieve alignment, too. We'll break down how you can get your teeth in order without braces so you can make a decision about tooth alignment that will make you smile.

The Health Benefits of Straight Teeth

When your teeth are aligned, they tend to harbor fewer bacteria because they're easier for you to clean. Better oral hygiene will decrease your risk of tooth decay, periodontal disease, and your gums may support your teeth better when they aren't overlapping, too. You could also have a decreased risk of chipping, breaking, or wearing away your teeth when they fit together correctly. You could even relieve abnormal stress put on your jaw from misaligned teeth.

Clear Aligners – An Alternative to Braces

Clear aligners are discreet, removable alternatives to traditional metal braces. When you get these custom-made, clear plastic aligners, you'll receive several months' worth in advance, and you'll change them out at regular intervals (usually about every two weeks) to help shift your teeth into the proper position. The entire series of aligners could take up to nine months or longer, depending on the amount of alignment needed.

It is important to note that the American Dental Association discourages getting clear aligners directly from manufacturers in what's being called Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Orthodontics. Moving teeth is a medical procedure that should be done with the supervision of a licensed professional.

Learn more about the differences between clear aligners and braces.

Conditions You May Be Able to Correct Without Braces

If you have any of the following conditions, you may be able to receive treatment that doesn't require you to wear braces or clear aligners at all:

  • Overcrowding If your teeth are only slightly crooked due to minor overcrowding, you may be able to get your teeth aligned using a retainer. Retainers are usually used to maintain the alignment of teeth after you wear braces, but for small adjustments, a retainer may be able to do the trick.
  • A bite that's out of alignment (malocclusion) Correcting a misaligned bite often requires appliances to adjust your jaw's position, like the Herbst appliance or headgear. The main disadvantage of these appliances is that they're not very discrete and can take time for sufficient results. The Herbst appliance is a small metal arm that goes in your mouth that connects a molar in your upper and lower jaw to keep them aligned. You'd wear this appliance for about a year, during which time the orthodontist will gradually make adjustments to shift the lower jaw into the correct position. Headgear utilizes a strap that wraps around the back of the head or neck with wires that go around the side of the face to the mouth. The headgear applies delicate pressure to the teeth and jaw. This device is typically worn for several hours a day until the jaw is sufficiently aligned.
  • Narrow upper palate If your child's mouth is too small for their future adult teeth, their orthodontist may insert a palatal expander to widen the arch of their upper teeth. The expander will be fastened to your child's upper molars using dental cement. Over time, the orthodontist will use a special key during visits, placing gradual pressure on the upper jaw's left and right halves. This causes extra bone to grow between the two halves of the jaw, increasing the width of your child's mouth so their teeth can shift into the proper position. Expanders are mostly invisible, but your child may experience mild discomfort each time their expander is adjusted.

Your orthodontist is best positioned to make recommendations to straighten your teeth tailored to your specific needs. Hopefully, now that you have a solid foundation of information regarding your options, you and your dental professional will be able to align on a choice to straighten your teeth that will make you smile.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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