Teeth straightening is a common dental procedure for people who are unhappy with the appearance of their teeth. It may be recommended by a dentist for medical reasons, or it may be a personal choice for cosmetic reasons. Either way, modern dentistry makes it possible to correct even severely misaligned bites.
Braces are a common solution to crooked teeth, but if you're wondering how to straighten teeth without braces, the good news is there are other options that might work for you. This article explains:
- The benefits of straight teeth
- Different braces options
- Ways to straighten teeth without braces (including retainers and veneers)
- Pros and cons of home teeth straightening kits
- Teeth straightening costs for different solutions
So, if you or your child have a less-than-perfect smile and you want to explore your treatment options, keep reading.
Table of contents
- 1 The benefits of straighter teeth
- 2 Teeth straightening options in the UK
- 3 Different types of braces for straightening teeth
- 4 How to straighten teeth without braces
- 5 Teeth straightening at home
- 6 How much does teeth straightening cost in the UK?
- 7 Summary
- 8 FAQs
The benefits of straighter teeth
You might think that teeth straightening is all about aesthetics, but there are actually some valid medical reasons for getting a straighter smile.
Crooked teeth can cause various problems, depending on the severity of the misalignment:
- Speech problems
- Difficulty eating
- Muscle strains
- Risk of damage to other teeth
- Problems maintaining good oral health
That last point can affect anyone with even slightly crooked teeth; if the teeth aren't correctly aligned, it's harder to clean them properly. This, in turn, means a greater likelihood of plaque buildup leading to tooth decay. A thorough oral health regime can help manage this risk.
Of course, appearance is also an important factor for many people, as this BBC article shows. Those who aren't blessed with a perfect smile can be self-conscious about their teeth, and may opt to get them straightened even if there isn't a medical need to do so.
We have a separate guide which covers the different types of malocclusion (bite misalignment). Here you can read about which malocclusions pose a medical risk, what causes crooked teeth in the first place, and possible treatments.
Teeth straightening options in the UK
Metal braces might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about getting a straighter smile, but dentists can use different kinds of braces, including clear braces, to straighten teeth. There are also ways to straighten teeth without braces.
Treatment options include:
- Traditional metal braces
- Clear or tooth-coloured ceramic braces
- “Invisible” aligner braces
- Home teeth straightening kits
We'll cover each of these in more detail in just a moment, but the video below contains a brief overview of some of these options:
Teeth straightening surgery may be required to treat certain malocclusions such as a severe open bite, underbite, overbite or cross bite. This is usually done in conjunction with orthodontic work.
Can teeth be straightened at any age?
The best time to straighten teeth is in the teenage years, before the jaw bone and teeth roots are fully developed. This is why it's important to take your child for regular dental checkups. If your dentist identifies a need for orthodontic treatment, he or she will plan this for the optimal time according to your child's development.
That said, teeth straightening for adults is still very effective. Our teeth can change position as we get older, usually becoming more crooked, so teeth that used to be quite straight may start to bother you later in life. Or, perhaps you have always had wonky teeth but just never got braces as a child.
Whatever your age, if you're unhappy with the way your teeth look then there are various ways to fix your smile.
Different types of braces for straightening teeth
First, let's look at the different kinds of braces that are used for teeth straightening for adults, teens and children. You can read more about each of these by following the links in each section or reading our full guide to braces.
This is usually the cheapest way to straighten teeth with braces, and metal braces are the only option offered on the NHS.
Metal brackets are attached to the teeth and a wire is threaded through them to pull the teeth into position. Small elastic bands hold the wire in place – you can usually choose the colour of your elastics to add a touch of style to your braces. Adjustments take place every month or so.
Another option is self-ligating braces, which don't need elastics; these ‘auto-adjust' so don't require such frequent adjustments.
People who want a less noticeable option may opt for clear braces to straighten their teeth. These work in the same way as metal braces but use ceramic materials which are clear or tooth-coloured, making them much less obvious.
Invisible braces like Invisalign are a popular option when it comes to teeth straightening for adults who don't want people to know they're wearing braces. Similarly, children who are worried about bullying in school might prefer this style.
These removable, clear aligners straighten teeth by applying pressure in just the right places. You'll get a new set every two weeks or so, with appointments every four to six weeks to check your progress.
Invisible braces work well for mild to moderate correction and can be a good, quick option – particularly if you just want to straighten your front teeth. To see whether you're a suitable candidate for teeth straightening with clear aligner braces (90% of people are), take Invisalign's free online Smile Assessment. It only takes two minutes to get your answer!
Or, if you prefer, book an appointment online with an Invisalign provider near you:
Also known as ‘hidden braces', lingual braces are perhaps the least noticeable type of brace because they are fixed to the back of the teeth, next to the tongue. This means they are only visible when you open your mouth very wide. However, they come at a price; they are the most expensive type of braces available (you can see more detailed costs in the table further down).
If you're concerned about aesthetics but still want a cheaper teeth straightening option, invisible braces might be the best solution.
How to straighten teeth without braces
Braces are the most effective way to straighten crooked teeth, and invisible braces are a popular option for people who want to avoid the look of traditional metal braces. Still, there are some alternative ways to straighten teeth that may work for you, depending on your circumstances.
Using a retainer for teeth straightening
Retainers are primarily used to retain the position of teeth following orthodontic work, hence the name. However, it is possible to achieve minor teeth straightening using a retainer.
Both clear retainers and metal retainers can straighten teeth to some degree, but the results are far more limited than with braces. Clear retainers might look the same as clear aligner braces, but they work differently.
If you're looking for an affordable teeth straightening option for minor correction, especially after wearing braces in the past, then your dentist may offer a retainer. This can be adjusted slightly as treatment proceeds, but scope is far more limited than with braces.
Where greater movement is required, you'll need to consider the other options. You can read more about the different types of retainers and costs in this guide.
Can veneers straighten crooked teeth?
Although veneers can't actually change the position of teeth, they can make them look straighter. To achieve this, dentists drill down part of the crooked tooth or teeth and then apply a porcelain veneer over the top. The result is that the teeth look better aligned, even if underneath the original teeth are still crooked. This technique only works on mild cases.
Veneers can offer cheap teeth straightening prices compared to braces, depending on how many teeth need to be treated. This is also a much quicker treatment option, usually requiring just two appointments.
However, keep in mind that veneers are not a permanent fix. After 5-10 years they will need to be replaced, either with new veneers or with crowns. They often cause irreparable damage to the teeth underneath because of the enamel removal, so consider the long-term implications before going ahead.
Contouring and bonding
In certain cases it's possible to do less drastic cosmetic work by drilling down parts of the teeth (e.g. rough edges and parts that protrude) and building other areas up with composite material. As with veneers, this can make the teeth appear straighter without having to move their position using braces.
Teeth straightening at home
People looking for cheap teeth straightening options may decide not to visit a dentist at all. There are a couple of ways to straighten teeth at home which you can read about below.
Teeth straightening kits
In recent years, home teeth straightening kits from “teledentistry” companies have become quite popular in the UK. Smile Direct Club is one such company which launched in the UK in July 2019 having had huge success in the USA.
These clear aligners are generally cheaper than getting braces at the dentist because they cut out the middle man and everything is done by post. You'll use a kit to create your own teeth impressions at home, or you may have the option to visit a local clinic (not all brands offer this option). The company then creates a treatment plan and sends your clear aligners in the post.
These kits for teeth straightening at home can be effective for mild cases, but they carry some risks. The main problem is that you're not meeting face-to-face with a dental professional who is a specialist in straightening teeth. Sending photos and impressions – even having a video call – isn't the same as a proper consultation to discuss your treatment.
Home straightening kits also often rely on you accurately capturing your own dental impressions. If anything goes wrong with this process, your aligners may not fit properly and the whole treatment may be ineffective.
Furthermore, your treatment is monitored at less frequent intervals than if you were visiting a dentist for checkups. The fact that it is done remotely makes it harder to assess exactly how your teeth are responding to the braces.
Despite all of this, teeth straightening kits can deliver good results – you don't have to search far online to find plenty of happy customers. Just approach with caution, and seriously consider getting invisible braces from a dentist if you can afford to.
Using mewing to straighten teeth naturally
Another home teeth straightening technique you might have heard of is ‘mewing'. This basically involves consciously pushing the tongue against the roof of the mouth until it becomes the natural resting position.
We don't recommend trying mewing to straighten teeth naturally, since this isn't a proven benefit. It may help expand the palate when done correctly, and this can reduce problems with overcrowding. But if your teeth are already misaligned, chances are you need a dental appliance to straighten them.
It's better to discuss your concerns with an experienced dentist who can advise you on the best treatment options.
How much does teeth straightening cost in the UK?
The table below shows approximately how much it costs to straighten teeth using the different methods we've mentioned.
You can see that teeth straightening costs vary greatly depending on the method used. The cheapest is not necessarily the best, so consider your options carefully – and decide whether you need treatment at all – before parting with any money.
If you're considering teeth straightening with Invisalign, search for your nearest provider now and book a consultation. Then, you can receive a precise treatment plan and price for your teeth straightening.
Can you get teeth straightening on the NHS?
Children whose treatment has been deemed medically necessary can get free teeth straightening in the UK on the NHS. This covers metal braces and retainers, plus any surgery (if required). Our guide to braces for kids has more information about the eligibility criteria for children's teeth straightening on the NHS.
Teeth straightening for adults is not provided by the NHS, except in extreme cases. It's most likely you'll have to pay for your treatment privately, but there are ways to make teeth straightening more affordable.
What's the cheapest way to straighten teeth?
As you've seen above, home straightening kits are probably the cheapest way to straighten teeth, but they are not always the most effective and they come with certain risks.
Retainers can offer cheaper teeth straightening, but they only work in very mild cases. Most people will need braces if they want straighter teeth, in which case traditional metal braces are usually most affordable.
Invisible braces like Invisalign can be comparable in price to metal braces, especially if you don't need a long treatment course.
When looking for teeth straightening near you, it's a good idea to check prices from two or three dentists. Teeth straightening prices can vary quite considerably from one to another, so you may be able to save money that way.
You might also want to check out your dental finance options. There are ways to make your treatment more affordable, for example by spreading payments with a dental loan or payment plan.
When deciding how to straighten your teeth – whether it's a significant correction or just mild adjustment you need – there are several different options to consider.
Braces are the most common treatment for teeth straightening, whether metal or ceramic brackets fixed to the teeth, or clear aligners that straighten teeth without it being so obvious. If you're considering invisible aligner braces, don't forget to check whether you're a suitable candidate with an Invisalign Smile Assessment.
There are also several brands of home teeth straightening kit in the UK. These can be tempting because they are quite cheap compared to visiting a dentist for braces, but approach with caution because of the risks of not involving a dental professional at all stages of your treatment.
Veneers may be appealing because they are so quick and convenient. Remember they are not truly straightening the teeth – just masking the problem. You need to consider the longer-term cost and inconvenience of replacing them when they fail.
Whatever you decide, we hope this article has helped you understand more about your teeth straightening options.
How long do braces take to straighten teeth?
It's natural to want to know how long braces will take to straighten your teeth, but there is no simple answer. Treatment can be over in 3-6 months if you only need mild correction, for example if you only need to straighten your front teeth. For more severe cases, treatment can take two years or more. The type of braces you choose for your treatment will also affect your treatment time to some degree.
We can say that teeth straightening with braces takes 12-18 months on average, but you'll need to visit your dentist for a more precise treatment plan.
Can you use an old retainer to straighten teeth?
We don't recommend it! It's understandable that you want to save money, but using an old retainer may damage your teeth if they have moved out of position since you last wore it.
Retainers are designed to keep your teeth in place after braces. Follow your dentist's instructions to keep your teeth straight following orthodontic work.
Can I use a night retainer to straighten teeth?
You may only need to wear a retainer at night to keep your teeth straight after braces, but there's no part-time treatment for straightening itself. If your teeth aren't under constant pressure to move, they'll simply slip back to their old position during the downtime.
Retainers and aligners have to be removed for eating and cleaning, but should still be worn for 20-22 hours every day.
If you're concerned about the appearance of a metal appliance during the day – at work, for instance – consider getting invisible braces instead. These are hardly noticeable and are an effective treatment option. Check here to see whether you're eligible for invisible braces.
Can teeth straighten themselves?
It is possible for teeth to straighten themselves, but only during the stage while they are still erupting. The first few permanent teeth might come in crooked and then correct themselves as the other teeth erupt. In adults, though, teeth are likely to become more crooked over time, not straighter.
Can you get your teeth surgically straightened?
Jaw surgery may be carried out in addition to treatment with braces. This doesn't surgically straighten individual teeth but it does re-align the jaw so that the teeth can come together properly.