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Updated on October 3, 2022

Teeth Straightening Options

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Types of Teeth Misalignment & Their Causes

Malocclusion (or misaligned teeth) is a common condition. It can affect your overall oral health, as well as your self-esteem. Most people have some level of malocclusion, and many turn to orthodontic treatment to fix their smiles. 

There are three classes of malocclusion:

  1. Class I — when the molars align, but there is minor front teeth crowding (most common)
  2. Class II — when the upper teeth and jaw overlap the lower teeth and jaw
  3. Class III — when the lower jaw is pushed forward in front of the upper jaw

Within these three classes, there are also seven different types of misalignment, including:

  1. Overbite (class II) — when the upper teeth and jaw significantly protrude over the lower teeth and jaw
  2. Underbite (class III) — when the lower jaw protrudes forward (creating a bulldog appearance) 
  3. Crossbite (class II) — when some bottom teeth are outside of the upper teeth
  4. Open Bite (class I,II, or III) — when the front upper and lower teeth don’t make contact when the mouth is closed
  5. Overjet (class II) — when the upper front teeth are ahead of the lower front teeth
  6. Crowded Teeth (class I) — when there is not enough space in the jaw for the teeth to align properly
  7. Diastema (class I) — when there are small gaps between teeth

Most cases of malocclusion are inherited. Other causes include birth defects, childhood habits, teeth abnormalities, failed dental procedures, and injuries. 

Nearly all cases of malocclusion can be corrected with orthodontic treatment. The treatment will depend on the type and severity of your condition and your age. Speak with your dentist or orthodontist to determine the best treatment plan for your needs.

9 Effective Teeth Straightening Options

The nine most common malocclusion treatments include:

1. Clear Aligners

Clear aligners (invisible braces) are custom-fitted, invisible, and removable plastic aligners.

Patients wear one aligner tray for one to two weeks and then switch to the next aligner set. This process safely and gradually shifts the teeth into place.

invisalign

Clear aligners can treat most cases of malocclusion. These include crowded teeth, overbites, underbites, crossbites, gap teeth, and open bites. Severe cases may require alternative methods like dental braces.

Clear aligners have become increasingly popular since Invisalign started in 1998.

Many patients prefer the invisibility and convenience of clear aligners to traditional metal braces.

Clear aligners are available in two different forms:

In-Office Aligners

This treatment takes place within a general dentist or orthodontist’s office. During your first visit, they will take an impression of your teeth and build a custom, 3D treatment plan.

Then you will schedule office visits every four to eight weeks for a face-to-face checkup and a new set of aligners.

Most dentistry practitioners use Invisalign’s technology and lab. Some have their equipment and can perform all operations in-house. Invisalign costs the same as braces ($3,500 to $8,000).

At-Home Aligners

Several companies, including byte and SmileDirectClub, work directly with consumers. They provide a cheaper, more accessible alternative to Invisalign.

These companies will send you an impression kit and use a 3D scanner and printing lab to create a treatment plan. Your home teeth straightening treatment is monitored virtually, and you receive your new aligner sets in the mail.

Prices vary but are cheaper than Invisalign or braces ($1,200 to $2,300).

Treatment time for at-home clear aligners depends on the severity of your condition. In general, though, treatment takes between 3 and 18 months.

2. Metal Braces

Traditional braces are the most recognizable and effective orthodontic treatment.

They are made of metal brackets and an archwire, held together by rubber bands. The archwire applies pressure to the crooked teeth and gradually shifts them into place.

metal bracesNewMouth

Braces are an effective and reliable treatment. However, many adults and teens prefer the aesthetics of invisible aligners. 

Treatment time will vary depending on your condition but typically ranges from 18 to 36 months. Metal braces cost between $2,500 and $7,000.

3. Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces use the same equipment and method as metal braces.

The difference is that ceramic braces utilize clear brackets as opposed to metal. This makes them less obvious (though still visible).

clear bracesNewMouth

They use clear or white rubber bands that attach to the archwire to create a minimal appearance.

Treatment time is the same as metal braces (typically 18 to 36 months). But they are usually slightly more expensive, ranging from $4,000 to $8,000.

4. Lingual Braces

Lingual braces are a less common alternative to metal and ceramic braces.

They may use custom brackets and wires to fit the shape of your teeth and the arch of your mouth. However, the brackets are positioned on the back of your teeth instead of the front.

lingual bracesNewMouth

Treatment can be more uncomfortable than traditional braces and clear aligners. But they are a discreet form of orthodontics. 

Treatment time is similar to traditional braces (6 months to 3 years). They cost more due to the intricacy of the treatment, ranging from $5,000 to $13,000.

5. Retainers

After treatment, your teeth will try to move back to their original position. Retainers keep your teeth from moving and preserve your new smile after braces. They can be removable or permanent.

Retainers are typically worn for at least four to six months. However, some may be worn longer.

6. Headgear

Orthodontic headgear is used in combination with braces. Braces can only correct teeth positioning, while headgear can influence the growth and shape of the jaw.

Cervical Pull Headgear

Headgear may be used when a patient has an overbite, underbite, overjet, open bite, or crossbite. Headgear is typically worn for 12 hours a day, and treatment typically takes 1 to 2 years.

7. Palate Expanders

Palate expanders are used in early orthodontic treatment to widen the palate (roof of the mouth). They treat children with impacted teeth, crossbites, or crowded teeth.

They may also be used to improve breathing abilities. Some palate expanders are removable, while others are permanent.

Palate expanders are typically used on children, and treatment lasts approximately 3 to 6 months.

Treatment typically costs between $2,000 and $3,000. However, many health care plans cover some or all of the treatment.

8. Orthognathic (Jaw) Surgery

Orthognathic surgery, also known as corrective jaw surgery, is used to correct severe jaw misalignment. Surgery is often recommended when a person is of skeletal maturity, beginning in their late teens.

Jaw surgery helps correct major issues contributing to eating and sleeping problems and TMJ disorder.

This surgery typically costs $20,000 to $40,000. However, some insurance companies may cover it.

9. Veneers

Veneers are a cosmetic treatment option but do not straighten your teeth. Rather, they are thin shells placed over the front of teeth to improve their size, shape, and color.

veneer NewMouth

Veneers are cosmetic because they are elective and placed only for aesthetic reasons. They typically cost between $925 and $2,500 per tooth.

What are the Benefits of Straight Teeth?

Not only do straight teeth enhance your smile and boost your confidence, but they also have oral health benefits:

  • Straight teeth are easier to brush and floss between, decreasing the risk of cavities and gum disease
  • Less wear and tear on your teeth (improperly aligned teeth can lead to tooth damage)
  • Better chewing, eating, and speaking abilities
  • Better digestion because you can chew food properly
  • Decreased neck and head pain (some bite issues can cause chronic headaches)
  • Reduced risk of developing jaw issues and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)

Clear aligners can save you thousands of dollars compared to braces. Learn about clear aligners.

Teeth Straightening: Frequently Asked Questions

Can you straighten your teeth without braces?

Clear aligners are popular and effective teeth straightening alternatives to traditional braces.

How much do teeth straightening treatments cost?

Teeth straightening costs depend on the severity of your condition and the type of treatment you undergo.

Braces typically cost between $2,500 and $8,000. Invisalign treatment is similar in price, ranging from $3,500 to $8,000.

At-home clear aligner treatment is the cheapest option, varying from $1,800 to $2,300.

How long does it take for teeth to straighten?

The treatment time for teeth straightening depends on the severity of your malocclusion and the type of treatment performed.

Clear aligners can straighten your teeth in as little as 3 months. However, most clear aligner treatment programs take 6 to 18 months.

Braces typically take 18 months to 3 years.

What is the cheapest way to straighten your teeth?

The cheapest way to straighten your teeth is with at-home aligners. However, you are only a candidate for treatment if you have minor to moderate dental crowding. Treatment is also monitored remotely.

Are aligners or braces better?

Aligners are a convenient and comfortable way to straighten your teeth discreetly. This treatment is only recommended for minor to moderate cases of teeth misalignment.

Keep in mind: Invisalign can fix more severe malocclusions. Braces are best for children and teens who have moderate to severe bite issues. Braces can also be used in combination with headgear and other devices to provide more effective results (children only).

Invisalign and braces cost about the same. At-home aligners cost thousands less (but don't offer in-person monitoring).

What’s Next?

The most popular at-home clear aligner kits can be found right here:

Learn about the different brands and what they offer.

6 Sources Cited
Last updated on October 3, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Lobb, W.k. “Outcome Assessment of Invisalign and Traditional Orthodontic Treatment Compared with the American Board of Orthodontics Objective Grading System.” American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics vol. 128,3 : 292-298.
  2. McCrostie, H. Stuart. “Lingual Orthodontics: The Future.” Seminars in Orthodontics vol. 12,3 : 211-214.
  3. Stamm, Thomas et al.  "A subjective comparison of two lingual bracket systems." European Journal of Orthodontics vol. 27,4 : 420-426.
  4. Chuang, Rita Y. et al. The Million Dollar Smile: Changing Lives with Cosmetic Dentistry. Blue Ocean Publishing Group, 2018.
  5. Hollins, Carole. Basic Guide to Dental Procedures. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.
  6. Orthodontic Treatment Options.” American Association of Orthodontists.
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