We sometimes get asked at our Bellaire and Houston orthodontic practice about getting braces on the bottom teeth only or just getting braces on the top teeth. In the world of orthodontics, this is what we call single-arch orthodontic treatment. There are the occasional instances where it’s a possibility, which we’ll cover. Yet, there are a number of considerations we take into account to determine if a patient is a candidate for getting braces on their top teeth or bottom teeth alone.
What is Single Arch Orthodontic Treatment?
Single-arch treatment, sometimes called one-arch treatment, is when we use Invisalign or braces on bottom teeth only or top teeth only but not both simultaneously. Every so often, an orthodontist will put braces on the top teeth first and then address the bottom teeth, or vice versa, but this is a little different than true single-arch orthodontic treatment because, eventually, we’ll be shifting the teeth in both arches into place.
When Would Top or Bottom Teeth Only Braces be Effective?
Single-arch treatment can work in a limited number of cases. However, to determine whether it’s feasible, your orthodontist has to perform a careful evaluation. It’s important to keep in mind that when you move the teeth, you’re impacting the bite, or the way the bottom and top teeth come together. Some cases where single-arch treatment might work include:
- If you have crowded bottom teeth, straight top teeth and a large overbite, getting braces on the bottom teeth only may be an option. This is because the crowded bottom teeth would shift forward a bit once they were straightened, which could help reduce the size of the overbite.
- Getting braces on the top teeth only could work in some instances when a patient has spaces between the top teeth, straight bottom teeth and an overbite. While straightening crowded teeth tends to cause them to move forward, closing gaps does the opposite and teeth often shift back. This would mean we could eliminate the spacing between the teeth and lessen the overbite.
- If you have an underbite, where the top teeth sit inside of the bottom teeth, and you also have crowding in the upper arch, single-arch treatment might be a consideration. However, it will depend on your bite in the back.
The Drawbacks of Just Getting Braces on the Top or Bottom Teeth
There are risks to single-arch orthodontic treatment. Your orthodontist isn’t just concerned with how straight your teeth are, they also look at your bite, or how your teeth come together. Your bite is a surprisingly complex relationship that involves both teeth and jaws. Ultimately, you want straight teeth and aligned jaws so the upper and lower teeth will meet properly. This allows your jaw to distribute forces evenly so that you can chew and speak properly, prevent uneven wear of the teeth and prevent undue stress on your jaw joints. Single-arch treatment shifts the teeth in only one arch, which can throw off the entire bite.
For example, as we noted before, crowded teeth tend to move forward once straightened while the teeth shift back when we close gaps. If you have an overbite and crowded top teeth, getting braces on the top teeth only will cause your overbite to get bigger throughout your treatment. If you have an underbite and crooked bottom teeth, bottom teeth only braces will worsen your underbite. While in both cases your teeth would look straighter, the way your teeth meet would be off and this would have negative consequences on the function and health of your smile.
The only way to find out if getting braces on your bottom teeth or top teeth only is a possibility, is to visit a certified specialist in orthodontics for an evaluation. Our expert Bellaire and Houston orthodontists are able to determine the best treatment plan to safely and effectively give you your dream smile. If you only have mild issues and you’re hesitant to sign off on comprehensive treatment, often, instead of single-arch treatment, limited treatment would be your best bet. We offer Smile Express at our practice as an option for patients who want a shorter, less expensive way to touch up their smile while still getting amazing, functional results. Schedule a complimentary in-person or virtual consultation at Houston Orthodontic Specialists today to learn more!