If you are unfamiliar with more modern options, you may think that braces are the only way to straighten crooked teeth. However, there are several other treatments that oral surgeons and cosmetic dentists can use to correct or hide the appearance of tooth misalignment. Here is an explanation of three common alternatives to braces.
Plastic aligners are a very popular alternative to traditional braces made of metal. There are a few different brands of plastic aligners on the market today, but most work using the same process. First, the dentist takes an impression of your teeth. The impression is sent to a dental laboratory, where it is scanned into a computer modeling program.
The program is used to create 3D models of the current positioning of your teeth and what they should look like when they are completely straight. The program then generates several stages of straightness between these two models, and a plastic aligner is created to match each stage. Each aligner will be worn for a few weeks and then replaced with one that is slightly straighter until your teeth are perfectly aligned.
Plastic aligners have several advantages over metal braces that make them an excellent option to consider. Unlike braces, plastic aligners are clear and almost impossible to see while you are wearing them. They are also more convenient than braces because they can be removed by the wearer. While your dentist will recommend that you wear them a certain number of hours per day, you can typically remove them for comfort while eating without any problems.
A veneer is a thin layer of porcelain or dental composite that covers the enamel of a tooth. Veneers are created from a mold of the tooth that the veneer will be applied to. To place the veneer, the dentist etches the enamel of the tooth and applies dental cement, fits the veneer over the tooth, and then uses ultraviolet light to cure the cement and bond the veneer to the tooth.
While the most common use of veneers is to hide discoloration, cracks, and other cosmetic imperfections in tooth enamel, they can also be used to mask the appearance of tooth misalignment in cases where the gaps between teeth are too wide. Because veneers add a slight degree of thickness to each tooth they are applied to, they make the distance between teeth appear smaller. Unfortunately, this means that veneers are useless for hiding misalignment in places where teeth are crowded too close together.
Dental contouring is the process of removing enamel to change the shape of teeth. In the context of correcting tooth misalignment, dental contouring is essentially the opposite of veneers: ineffective for teeth that are spaced too widely apart, but excellent in cases where teeth are crowded and beginning to overlap.
Before your teeth are contoured, the dentist will often take an x-ray of your teeth to analyze their health and the thickness of the enamel. Enamel cannot be restored, so this analysis is important to prevent increased sensitivity and other problems that can arise from the removal of too much enamel. To contour your teeth, the dentist will first use a pen to mark off the sections of the enamel that will be reduced. A small motorized sander is then used to file the teeth until the desired shape is achieved.
As these examples show, braces are no longer the only option for straightening misaligned teeth. Keep these alternatives in mind so you can have an informed conversation with your dentist or an orthodontist from a clinic like Cobbe Dental & Orthodontics about the best tooth straightening option for your teeth.