Every once in a while, a patient will visit Richard Chan Orthodontics and ask about the possibility of getting braces on the top teeth only or the bottom teeth only. They usually feel their top or bottom teeth are straight enough or the bottom teeth aren’t all that visible so they consider them less of a priority. After all, fewer braces or only half of the usual number of Invisalign trays would save money, right? Whether the approach would be cost-effective or if one arch treatment is even a possibility, depends on a number of factors.
What is One Arch Orthodontic Treatment?
First, let’s go over what a dental arch is. The dental arches are the two crescent-shaped arrangements of teeth that make up what we refer to as your dentition. You have one on each jaw. Single arch treatment, sometimes referred to as one arch orthodontic treatment, is when we use braces or Invisalign on the top teeth only or the bottom teeth only instead of both arches. While in certain cases, to get proper alignment, we’ll begin with braces on the bottom teeth first and then follow with braces on the top teeth, or the other way around, this isn’t the same as single arch treatment because eventually we put braces or Invisalign on the top and bottom. When we do opt for single arch treatment, it’s only after a comprehensive analysis of your bite, which is the relationship between your top and bottom teeth and how they fit together.
In What Cases Does Getting Braces For Bottom Teeth Only or Top Teeth Only Work?
Occasionally, braces or Invisalign on just the bottom or top teeth can be effective. However, these situations are quite rare because the bite is extremely complex and aligning it requires a delicate balance. When we close gaps between the teeth, they tend to shift backwards. When we create space between the teeth, like in cases of crowding, they move forward as they straighten. As the front teeth move forward or backwards, they may then run into the teeth on the opposing arch, creating new bite problems that were not previously there.
Now, for example, if your top teeth are straight and you’re happy with how they look, your bottom teeth are crowded and you have a moderate overbite, treatment on your bottom teeth only could be effective. Or, if you have an overbite, your bottom teeth are straight and your top teeth have spaces between them, then getting treatment on just your top teeth could decrease your overbite and eliminate spaces. Keep in mind, however, that it would have to be a very specific degree of crowding, spacing or overjet to get it right. It’s not as simple as it seems!
The Drawbacks of Invisalign or Braces for Just the Top or Bottom Teeth
Like we mentioned earlier, the bite is a complex relationship between the two arches and when it comes to perfecting it, the jaws come into play as well. Single arch treatment can disrupt the bite and leave you worse off than you were prior to braces or Invisalign. If you have an overbite and crowded top teeth, putting braces on just the top teeth may make the teeth look straighter but it will increase the size of your overbite, which could affect your ability to chew and make your upper front teeth more susceptible to injury. If you have an underbite and you only straighten the bottom teeth this will also throw your bite off though teeth may look better at first glance. Additionally, since our bites deepen over time, there’s often not enough room between the front of the bottom teeth and back of the top teeth to make single arch treatment an option. In this instance, braces on the bottom teeth wouldn’t fit or they’d rub against the top teeth. Treating a deep bite requires shifting both arches.
As you can see, the concept of single arch treatment is a bit complicated and there are so many variables that come into play when determining if it’s feasible. If you’d like to see if it’s a possibility in your case, schedule your free consultation at Richard Chan Orthodontics. Dr. Chan will carefully evaluate your bite and give you an expert, honest opinion. We offer metal braces, clear braces, self-ligating braces, Invisalign Teen and Invisalign in Mill Creek, Bothell and Monroe, Washington and Juneau and Sitka, Alaska. Whether it’s on the top teeth, bottom teeth or both, we’ll customize a plan that suits your needs and results in a beautiful, healthy smile.