Ask Dr. Datwyler: Can I get braces on just the top or bottom teeth?

As part of our orthodontic practice in El Dorado Hills and the surrounding communities, we believe every patient is a rockstar. So whether it’s online or in our office, when patients come to us with questions, we take the time to address their needs and concerns.

Many patients have contacted us to ask about getting braces for the top teeth only or (less often), whether they can get braces for the bottom teeth only. Because this is a common question, we’ve asked Dr. Datwyler to share some information on single arch treatment — what it is, when it’s effective, and when it’s not.

When patients ask about braces on the top teeth only, the reason is typically because they feel like their bottom teeth are straight (or straight enough), and that they’re less visible anyway. They are mainly concerned with improving the look of their top teeth and don’t see why they would need braces on the bottom teeth in this case.

Plus, it seems like it would be half the cost, right? Half the braces means half the work, which seems like it would be half the cost. We know that many families are trying to stretch their budget as far as it can go, so we definitely understand where this question comes from.

While it might sound like a good idea at first, single arch orthodontic treatment is only effective for a very small percentage of patients.

What Is Single Arch Orthodontic Treatment?

Single arch treatment (also called one-arch treatment) involves using braces or Invisalign on just the top teeth or just the bottom teeth, but not both.

When Is Single Arch Orthodontic Treatment Effective?

After looking at your “bite” (basically, the relationship between your upper and lower teeth), an orthodontist might recommend just top teeth braces or bottom teeth braces to correct an “overbite” or “underbite.” As we discussed, there’s a very small percentage of patients who qualify for this treatment because there are so many factors that have to line up for it to be effective.

It’s important to remember that your teeth aren’t just crooked or straight. Throughout your life, your jaw and your teeth have been lining up with one another to form a “bite.” As imperfect as your teeth and jaw may be, they have adapted to one another to form a working relationship forged over the years. This is true during your development as a child, and it continues throughout your adult life, as well.

When Is Getting Braces on Just the Top or Bottom Teeth NOT Effective?

What happens when you take this bite and rearrange half of it is, your teeth may look closer to the way you want, but your bite will be off.

A poorly aligned bite will cause cascading issues that will need to be addressed. Otherwise, over time, the discomfort turns to pain, and at that point, you’ll have to re-start the orthodontic process all over again.

This is one of the reasons the fly-by-night, mail-order solutions for clear teeth-straighteners aren’t the best idea for most people. They will straighten your teeth, but they can’t adjust for your bite. In our office, we carefully review your scans, pictures, and x-rays, and we develop a treatment plan for straightening your teeth, even if it’s just the top or bottom which need straightening, so that you get the smile you want, and your bite is organically adjusted throughout the course of your treatment.

We don’t want to paint a scary picture of what orthodontic care entails. We do what we do because we love people and want to help them get the best smile they can get whether through traditional braces, Invisalign, or Clarity Advanced ceramic braces.

We also know that in order for braces or Invisalign to work the way they are supposed to work, we have to prescribe a treatment plan that gets the whole mouth — teeth and jaws — working in harmony.

Can you get treatments for just the top or just the bottom? Yes, but only in rare cases after we’ve drafted a treatment plan. That treatment plan would have to clearly show that your bite would in no way be adversely affected by one-arch treatment.

What’s Next?

To find out for sure whether one-arch treatment is right for you, schedule an appointment with Datwyler Orthodontics. We will thoroughly review your case and build a treatment plan that is crafted exclusively for you. At Datwyler Orthodontics, we believe you and your smile are unique, so your treatment plan will be, too.

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