Your teeth come in both top and bottom arches. Correcting either alone is what's known as single arch treatment. Invisalign can be used for this. But traditionally, it's done for both arches.
Single arch treatment is done to correct a specific problem or make cosmetic improvements.
Because of the risks it poses for your bite formation, single arch treatment is rarely recommended.
Your top and bottom teeth need to fit together evenly. When they don't, this is known as malocclusion. This is the main risk of single arch aligner treatment.
Malocclusion can cause certain teeth to bite in the wrong areas. They can hit too high or too low, disrupting your bite.
It can change where your jaw rests, making it sit either too far forward or move it back. This may affect your smile and change your appearance causing self-esteem issues.
Malocclusion can also lead to long-term health problems.
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It's usually best to treat both teeth arches at the same time. Your arches work together as part of an entire system. Treating just one is more challenging for orthodontists and increases the likelihood of errors.
When one issue is corrected, it can lead to another.
For example, if you have both an overbite and crowded teeth, using Invisalign for the top arch may straighten your teeth, but it may also make your overbite bigger.
This is because when you make space between crowded teeth, they tend to shift forward as they straighten out.
Likewise, closing gaps between teeth on the lower arch also causes them to move backward. That could exacerbate an underbite.
Another issue is if teeth from one arch wrongly contact the other, they could move those out of alignment.
These are just some of the issues with single arch treatment. In most cases, it's best to treat your entire bite holistically.
Single arch treatment may make sense in some instances. For example, any teeth that you smile with which are slightly crooked or chipped. These are minor, aesthetic issues that could benefit from single arch treatment.
Another example would be minor cases of diastema. A diastema is a tooth gap, which can appear in your top or bottom arches. Invisalign can be effective for gaps of 0.06mm or less.12
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Other cases where single arch treatment may be appropriate include:
Single arch treatment should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Ask your dentist or orthodontist if it's right for you.
Invisalign treatment works the same way for one arch as it does for both arches. It begins with a visit to a dentist or orthodontist's office.
There, your bite is comprehensively examined. This can include photographs, an x-ray of your jaw, and digital scans of your teeth.
A series of aligners are then made to fit snugly against your top or bottom teeth.
The Invisalign website recommends wearing the aligners between 20 and 22 hours per day for about two weeks. During that time, the aligner moves your teeth between 0.25 to 0.3 millimeters.6
Every two weeks, the aligner is swapped for a new one constructed based on expected treatment progress.
Treatment time varies. It may take half a year or less for minor issues, but this can vary based on how often you wear it.
Wearing your aligner less than at least 20 hours a day will make the treatment take longer.
Some people mistakenly think single arch treatment is a way to pay half-price. Treating both arches is not significantly more expensive than treating just one.
At some dentists' offices, Invisalign costs the same whether it's for one or both arches.1, 3
There’s no flat rate for Invisalign treatment. Cost can vary based on treatment length and what the issues are. Even what state you live in plays a role.
According to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry, the national average cost is around $2,500 to $5,500.3 Other sources place the cost as high as $9,000.7 For minor treatments however, it may be closer to the lower end.
Many insurers cover Invisalign, and you can pay with HSA and FSA. Your dentist or orthodontist may also offer payment plans.
Bracy, Keith. “INVISALIGN ALIGNERS FOR BOTTOM TEETH ONLY: EXPLAINED BY DR. BRACY.” www.drbracy.com, 2018.
Chan, Richard W. “A Guide to Getting Braces Just on Your Bottom or Top Teeth.” www.chansmiles.com, 2017.
Consumer Guide to Dentistry. “Invisalign — How it Works and What it Costs?” www.yourdentistryguide.com
Gavin Laidlaw Dental Solutions. “IS IT POSSIBLE TO RECEIVE INVISALIGN FOR BOTTOM TEETH OR TOP TEETH ONLY.” gavinismydentist.com.
Koerich & Case Orthodontics. “The Average Cost of Invisalign: A Complete Guide.” charlottesorthodontist.com, 2021.
Ling, Paul H. “Clinical Limitations of Invisalign.” Journal of the Canadian Dental Association, vol. 73, no. 3, 2007, pp. 263-266. http://www.cda-adc.ca/.
Personalized Orthodontics. “Better understanding the cost of Invisalign | What factors determine your price?” porth.io.
Ruhl, CM, et al. “Diagnosis, complications, and treatment of dentoskeletal malocclusion.” The American journal of emergency medicine, vol. 12, no. 1, 1994, pp. 98-104. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
Sturgill Orthodontics. “A Guide to Getting Braces on Just Your Top or Bottom Teeth.” sturgillorthodontics.com, 2018.
3Dental. “How Much Is Invisalign?” www.3dental.ie, 2019.
Thurman, Brian. “Types of Malocclusions and How Orthodontic Treatment Helps.” www.thurmanortho.com/, 2021.
Weir, T. “Clear aligners in orthodontic treatment.” Australian Dental Journal, vol. 62, no. 1, 2017, pp. 58-62.