Is It Possible to Get Bottom or Top Braces Only?

Orthodontists are sometimes asked by patients about getting braces on just the top teeth or just the bottom teeth. This is generally known as single-arch or one arch orthodontic treatment. There are occasional circumstances where this procedure is a possibility.

However, there are a number of considerations that orthodontists will take into account to determine if you are a good candidate for getting braces on your top or bottom teeth only. This option should be discussed with your orthodontist.

Objectives of Orthodontic Treatment

The objectives of orthodontic treatment are to improve oral function, prevent and correct occlusal anomalies, aesthetics, and general dental health. Also, to eliminate functional problems that may predispose a patient to TMD; encourage the eruption and alignment of displaced or impacted teeth; remove any trauma from occlusion and/or displaced teeth and/or improve facial and dental aesthetics by aligning and leveling the teeth, correcting the overjet and overbite to establish a mutually protective occlusion, within a stable soft tissue environment. The benefits of orthodontic treatment can be considered in terms of reducing the negative impact that a malocclusion has on the dental health and the psycho-social comfort of an individual.

Orthodontic treatment does carry risks which include decalcification, root resorption, gingival and periodontal problems, and the failure to achieve the aims of treatment. However, these are rare.

Objectives of Single Arch Orthodontic Treatment

Generally, there are two objectives in orthodontic treatment:

  • Proper alignment of teeth
  • To establish the ideal occlusion or bite

With a single arch treatment, alignment can be achieved but ideal occlusion often cannot be achieved. A single arch treatment should be an option ideally only when an existing occlusion can be maintained during single arch treatment.

What is Single Arch Orthodontic Treatment?

Single arch orthodontic treatment is also referred to as one-arch treatment. This occurs when orthodontists use Invisalign or braces on the top or bottom teeth only but not on both simultaneously.

The treatment can also be done in phases. Depending on the course of treatment, the orthodontist will begin with braces on the bottom teeth only, then follow with braces on the top teeth after the bottom teeth have been treated. They can also start with the top arch only, then follow with the bottom.  However, this is a bit different than true single arch orthodontic treatment because at some point, the orthodontist will be shifting the teeth in both arches into place.

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When Would Top or Bottom Teeth Only Braces Be Effective?

There are cases where single arch orthodontic treatment can work. However, to determine whether this is a feasible idea, the orthodontist has to perform a detailed evaluation. When you move your teeth, you are impacting the bite or the way the bottom and top teeth align. The instances where the single arch treatment can correct overbite but not necessarily the whole bite include:

  • If you have crowded bottom teeth, straight top teeth, and a significant overbite, obtaining braces on the bottom teeth only could be an option. The reason for this is that the crowded bottom teeth would shift forward once they were straightened. This could assist in reducing the size of the overbite.
  • When a patient has spaces between the top teeth, straight bottom teeth, and an overbite, getting braces on the top teeth only could work. While straightening crowded teeth can cause them to move forward, closing gaps does the opposite, and teeth can shift back. This would mean the orthodontist could eliminate the spacing between the teeth and reduce the overbite.

However, if you have an underbite, in which the top teeth sit inside of the bottom teeth, and you also have crowding in the upper arch, single arch treatment becomes a possibility. This will depend on the bite in the back.

Disadvantages of Only Getting Braces on the Top or Bottom Teeth

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There are disadvantages and risks to receiving single arch orthodontic treatment. The orthodontist is not just concerned with how straight your teeth are. They also observe your bite and how your teeth come together.

A person’s bite involves a complicated relationship between both sets of teeth and the jaw. You want teeth that are straight and also jaws that are aligned so that the top and bottom teeth will meet properly. This will allow the teeth to distribute forces evenly so that you can chew properly. This will also prevent uneven wear of the teeth and prevent unnecessary stress on the jaw joints. Single arch treatment shifts the teeth in only one arch, which can negatively affect the entire bite.

It is virtually impossible to fix a crossbite, overbite, or underbite without moving both rows of teeth toward each other in some way. In other words, a single arch treatment cannot correct the occlusion which is the relationship of the upper and lower arch.

If you have an overbite and crowded top teeth, getting braces on the top teeth only will cause an overbite to grow throughout the treatment. If you have an underbite and crooked bottom teeth, bottom teeth only braces will make your underbite worse. In either case, your teeth would look straighter but the way your teeth meet would be poor and this would have negative consequences on the function and health of your smile.

Can You Save Money by Getting Top or Bottom Braces Only?

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You should not expect too much monetary savings for one arch treatment. The orthodontic fee is based on the treatment time required and the complexity of the treatment. The cost of the braces and material is small in comparison to the overall cost. However, if the orthodontic treatment requires special/additional appliances (“hardware”, e.g. Invisalign aligners), the fee will increase accordingly.

Therefore, what determines the overall cost of orthodontic treatment are:

  • the amount of time
  • the complexity of treatment,
  • any additional appliances

The differentiation of one or two arch treatments will not affect the overall cost of orthodontic treatment.

Let’s Consider Your Options

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When you come in for an orthodontic consultation, OOLI Orthodontics will ask what your primary complaint is. With this complaint in mind, we will examine and formulate an initial treatment plan.

This plan may have a few treatment options and these options will be determined by the chief complaint and the examination.

For example, you may want a lower arch treatment only. Although this may be what you want, it may not be what you need. Our job during the consultation is to understand the want and explain your need.

There are times when these two factors coincide but in cases where they do not, we must explain the advantages and disadvantages of single arch treatment. Also, we explain any limitations of all treatments. These limits are set with the starting point of dentition and bones, age, and genetics.

Finally, it is critical that all factors are considered before deciding if single arch treatment is a feasible option.

If you would like to make an appointment with us, here is the contact information.

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