Straightening teeth: What are my options?

Whatever your budget, modern dentistry now offers a number of different ways to straighten your teeth. Check out the best option for you. 

Not so long ago, the fixing of crowded teeth, crooked teeth and similar teeth-straightening tasks mostly took place during the earlier teenage years once all your adult teeth had arrived. But advances in modern dentistry have challenged this rather traditional approach to dental practice. Carefully assessing newly emerged adult teeth still makes sense. But it’s no longer the case that those who miss out on the ‘adolescent teeth-straightening window’ have practically blown their chances of making such dental changes. 

Thanks to some major improvements in modern dentistry,, older teenagers and adults can now access a broader range of orthodontic options. Various kinds of upgraded dental braces are still available, while expertly crafted crowns and veneers can be worn to disguise any tooth gaps and other imperfections. Modern dental aligners – which are practically invisible to other people – can also be used to discreetly fix many moderate alignment issues. 

While these welcome advances have restored many a beaming smile, not everyone is completely clear about all the treatments dentists can now offer to straighten crooked teeth. So this guide to teeth straightening will answer some questions about the process, the dental technologies involved, and the likely cost of various dental interventions.

When do you need to straighten your teeth?

There is no set time during which you must straighten your teeth. But having said that, the ideal time would be once you have your adult teeth in place. That’s why teeth straightening was once thought to be a procedure just for children and early teens – generally those between the ages of around 10 to 14. 

Nowadays, modern dentistry practice means you can opt for teeth straightening whatever your age. The only real restriction is that this kind of orthodontic treatment is not suitable for any younger children whose permanent (adult) teeth have not yet come through. Children may also be considered not ready for treatment if dental specialists believe a child’s face and jaw still need more time to grow and mature. 

So, you should never feel you are somehow too old to consider a teeth-straightening procedure. In fact, many more adults are now choosing orthodontic treatments, not only to fix crooked, twisted and overlapping teeth and enhance their smile, but also because of the many other benefits such procedures can offer. These advantages can include: 

  • Better overall dental health: When your teeth are crowded, crooked, or otherwise misaligned, it becomes much harder to keep them properly clean. This is because plaque begins to build up in hidden places where brushing just cannot reach. The presence of dental plaque then causes harmful bacteria to multiply rapidly. Dental hygiene is much easier with straight teeth. Your teeth stay cleaner, you get less tooth decay, and you keep your gums healthy. Over time, you reduce the risk of bad breath and gum infections. 

  • Easier chewing: When all your teeth are properly aligned, your teeth develop a proper bite. But if your teeth happen to be misaligned, the teeth in your upper and lower jaws won’t meet together as they should. This means that chewing and biting actions become harder and require more muscular strength. Over time, your teeth begin to wear excessively. Your teeth also start to lose their enamel coating at a faster rate, making your teeth discoloured and ultra-sensitive whilst also causing you pain. 

  • Prevention of jaw pain: Jaw pain can be a further symptom of crooked teeth. Misaligned teeth can cause people to alter the way they eat and speak. This often results in extra muscular effort which in turn can put extra pressure on your dental anatomy such as teeth, gums and jaw bones. This is one reason those with crowded or crooked teeth may develop problems such as headaches or pain in the ears and neck. Straight teeth help you achieve correct jaw alignment. That means your muscles relax, and you avoid the unnecessary grinding and clenching of teeth, which can quickly result in pain.You’ll also eat more comfortably, smile more easily, and generally feel healthier. 

  • Raised self-esteem: Tooth gaps and crooked or crowded teeth can make it harder to smile naturally and may make you feel awkward about your dental profile. If this dents your confidence, you may not find it quite so easy to interact socially with those around you. Whatever your view, straight teeth will undoubtedly boost your self-confidence and have a positive impact on your social relationships at home as well as at work.

Can I straighten my teeth without using traditional braces?

Traditional dental braces are just one of a range of teeth-straightening options now available. But of course, any proper treatment to correct a misaligned tooth (which dentistry describes as a malocclusion) must always be performed by a qualified dentist. Here are some of the most common types of tooth straightening treatments your dentist may recommend: 

  • Fixed metal braces: These are the traditional types of dental braces that will be most familiar to many people. They consist of metal brackets fixed to the teeth. These brackets are then connected to each other using thinner and softer metal wires and/or rubber bands. Dentists use this mechanism to create a gentle sustained pressure to persuade your teeth to shift into their correct positions. This arrangement has always been found to work well but requires quite frequent return visits to your dentist or orthodontist. Each time, the amount of movement will be measured and the braces and wires will be adjusted to gain some further movement. Eating certain foods while wearing braces can be awkward, and it can also be hard work keeping your mouth clean. In addition, metal braces are quite highly visible, which some people may see as a disadvantage. 

  • Ceramic Braces: These fixed braces are designed to operate in much the same way as fixed metal braces. The straightening of your teeth is again achieved by pressure and regular adjustments by your dentist. One important difference is that the ceramic material allows a little more choice. Unlike the material used for metal braces, ceramic materials can be clear or even coloured to resemble your teeth. As a result, they are less noticeable when worn than a set of metal braces, which can be an important issue for some people. Ceramic braces are less robust than fixed metal braces and tend to stain more easily – when you drink coffee, for instance. 

  • Lingual Braces: Lingual braces work in much the same way as the types of traditional dental braces mentioned above. The most important difference is the way lingual braces are positioned in your mouth. This type of fixed brace has all the brackets and wires fitted behind your teeth rather than in front. In terms of treatment, you will still need regular visits for adjustment purposes. However, other people will probably be unaware you are wearing lingual braces unless you choose to tell them. The disadvantages tend to be the same as for other fixed braces: You will have to spend time keeping them clean and may need to be careful about eating certain foods. 

  • Invisible aligners: As the description suggests, invisible aligners are near-invisible, custom-made hard plastic aligners crafted to fit around your own teeth. Unlike all the dental braces described so far, clear plastic aligners are a type of brace designed to be removable rather than fixed. However, as they are designed to correct mild and moderate teeth misalignments, invisible aligners must still be worn exactly as your dentist recommends. One major advantage of such aligners is you can be confident they will be almost invisible when worn. This means teens and adults can arrange to have certain corrective teeth straightening treatments without others even noticing their ongoing dental work. Eating food is also easier because your removable braces can be taken out while you eat and then replaced after your meal. And likewise, removable braces also allow you to continue as normal with regular brushing and flossing of your teeth. Progress checks must still be made, but modern dentistry has made this process more convenient when removable aligners are involved. 

Please remember that after any dental treatment which straightens and/or re-positions your teeth, you will have to wear a retainer. This is essential to hold your teeth in their new position until your surrounding gum regions, and the bones which support them, have time to adjust to the way your teeth have been relocated. Your dentist will advise how long you should wear your retainer – and it perhaps goes without saying how important it is for you to follow all the instructions and advice you are given to ensure your new smile soon becomes a permanent fixture.

How much does it cost?

The cost will depend on how much corrective treatment your teeth will actually require. Another factor that will affect the price is the type of treatment that your dentist recommends to straighten your teeth. Thus, you pay a certain amount for the type of materials used to create your dental appliance and the work done to assemble the product. In addition, you will also be paying for dental experts to fit the device and carry out the later adjustments needed to ensure your teeth straightening treatment will be effective. 

Firstly, it should be remembered that some orthodontic treatments can actually be carried out free of charge by NHS dentists. To qualify for NHS treatments, young people must either be below the age of 18, or students in full-time education up to 19 years old. Furthermore, NHS treatment is only available for free when the recommended treatment is considered necessary for medical reasons. So any treatment deemed to be purely for cosmetic purposes rather than to fix a clear health need will not qualify under this scheme. 

Adults do not normally qualify for NHS orthodontic treatment. However, individual cases are sometimes considered if it can be shown that action is necessary for health reasons. For most adults and many young people, that means making arrangements for private dental treatment.

According to the NHS website, the cost of private orthodontic treatment ‘can range from £2,000 to £6,000, depending on the complexity of the treatment’ – although the site also warns that ‘fees can be higher’. Where a treatment such as teeth straightening involves dental braces, the reason for the vast difference in price is the different kinds of braces that may be recommended. Metal braces tend to be cheaper, while ceramic or lingual braces are generally a more expensive option. 

Looking at costs in more detail, the approximate cost of different teeth straightening treatments as follows: 

  • Traditional fixed metal braces can cost somewhere between £1,500 and £3,000.

  • Ceramic fixed braces (clear and tooth-coloured) can work out at £2,000 - £6,000.

  • Lingual fixed braces (fitted behind your teeth) can cost in the region of £2,000 to £10,000. 

PlusDent custom-made (removable) invisible aligners, one of dentistry’s modern alternatives to fixed braces, can be used for mild to moderate teeth straightening in the anterior (front) region of your mouth. Here, the cost of your planned and recommended treatment will precisely reflect the amount of dental correction work involved. PlusDent’s pricing starts at £1,890 for minor corrections which can be treated over a short space of time.

What is the cheapest way to straighten my teeth?

In order to decide which is the cheapest way to straighten your teeth, you should, first of all, think about the likely amount of work involved. As the above PlusDent example shows, minor dental work is the cheapest, while a complex treatment is always likely to be the most expensive. 

The other consideration is the materials used and the comfort and convenience of the procedures involved. Traditional fixed metal braces are certainly one of the most affordable options, but they require several visits to your dentist for adjustments, require lots of attention to oral hygiene, and are unlikely to pass unnoticed if this is important to you. Ceramic braces operate in the same way as metal braces but are a little more cosmetically appealing with their clear and tooth-toned materials.

Meanwhile, lingual braces again function in the same way as metal and ceramic kinds but offer what may be a crucial advantage in that they are near-invisible to those who are unaware you are undergoing dental treatment. Lingual braces are very suitable for most kinds of teeth straightening, but such convenience does come at a price. 

Those requiring only slight to moderate teeth straightening at the front of the mouth have an alternative solution: PlusDent aligners. The PlusDent service is a five-step procedure that begins with a free 3D scan to accurately determine the condition of your teeth and jaws.

Based on this information, PlusDent will create a personalised treatment plan to correct your misaligned teeth. The price package offered will reflect the complexity of your treatment. Once your plan is set up, you will receive your precision-made aligners through the post, along with everything else you need to begin your treatment. 

The PlusDent dental team is available to support you throughout your treatment. They monitor your progress via the dedicated PlusDent app. This means you can keep up to date with your treatment and get all your questions answered via your smartphone instead of making all those repeat visits to your dentist. 

At the end of your treatment, you’ll have straighter teeth, a more confident smile, and perhaps the satisfaction of knowing that the whole procedure was more manageable and convenient, and certainly more affordable, than you may have thought when you first explored your treatment options.

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