Do you wish you had straighter teeth? It can be frustrating to have been born with crooked teeth, while others stroll around with their naturally dazzling smiles.
Well, guess what? They might not be so natural after all.
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 for alignment or straightening of the 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 teeth straightening at home
- Teeth straightening costs
- More affordable ways to straighten teeth
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
The benefits of teeth straightening
You might think that teeth straightening is all about esthetics, but there are actually some valid medical reasons for getting straight teeth.
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, the appearance of non-straight teeth is also an important factor for many people. 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.
While straightening your teeth can correct cosmetic problems and improve your smile’s appearance, it has even more benefits for your oral health. When a patient has crooked teeth, they often experience problems that interfere with their daily lives. For example, crooked teeth can cause difficulty chewing or talking, but this issue can even contribute to jaw problems and damage to nearby teeth. Additionally, crooked teeth are more difficult to clean and care for, which means you could be more susceptible to problems like cavities and gum disease.
Dr. Travis R. Willey, Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies
Teeth straightening options in the US
Metal braces might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about getting straight teeth, 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-colored ceramic braces
- “Invisible” aligner braces
- At-home teeth straightening kit
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 crossbite. This is usually done in conjunction with orthodontic work. It may seem scary to consider surgery but the before and after is usually worth it.
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 crooked 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.
How to straighten your teeth with braces
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 may be the only option with state-funded insurance.
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 different braces colors 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 they don't require such frequent adjustments.
You're probably wondering if there is a less noticeable option than traditional metal braces. If that's the case, you may opt for clear bracket braces to straighten your teeth. These work in the same way as metal braces but use ceramic materials which are clear or tooth-colored, 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 sometimes be the fastest way to straighten teeth – particularly if you just want to straighten your front teeth.
There are two main types of invisible braces to consider. Brands like Invisalign conduct your treatment in a dentist's office, and can treat up to 90% of orthodontic cases, including some severe bite problems. For mild and moderate treatment there is also the option of at-home aligners from companies like Candid, Byte, NewSmile and ALIGNERCO, Smile Direct Club. With these, you can complete your entire treatment at home via remote monitoring, cutting out the inconvenience (and expense) of visiting a dentist.
At-home aligners are considerably cheaper than in-office solutions; all the brands we recommend come in at less than $2,500. You can read more about these below, or check out our article on the best invisible braces.
- Complete treatment 100% remotely
- Amazing customer service
- Nighttime-only option
- $1,495 or $58/month
NewSmile aligners are made from the clearest Essix plastic and come with a daytime or nighttime-only option to suit you. For just $1,495 you'll receive everything you need to straighten and whiten your teeth – and maintain your new smile:
- Home impression kit
- Full aligner treatment
- Free whitening
- First set of retainers
- A full refund if you're not a good fit
NewSmile goes above and beyond to provide a great experience to all their customers, beginning with a live video call to help you with your teeth impressions. Mail these back, and they'll send a 3D Treatment Preview for you to approve before going ahead.
- Complete treatment 100% remotely
- 4-6 month average treatment time
- Nighttime-only option
- $895 or $75/month
If you're looking for the best value aligner package, here it is! For just $895 you'll get:
- Impression kit
- Full aligner treatment course
- Free teeth whitening kit
- Your first set of retainers
In short, everything needed to straighten your teeth remotely and keep them looking great, with a full money-back guarantee if you're not a suitable candidate.
This low price doesn't mean you're compromising on quality of care, though. ALIGNERCO just choose not to put so much into marketing, and they pass on the savings to their customers. They are also known for their responsive and helpful customer care, which is important when you're doing things from home.
Plus, if you're in New York, you can visit their SmileStudio for a free consultation and help taking your impressions.
Nighttime-only aligners are also available for anyone who doesn't want to wear aligners during the day.
- 3-4 month average treatment time
- Assessed and planned by orthodontists
- Includes whitening and first retainers
- $1,999 or $70/month
Byte's HyperByte technology uses High Frequency Vibration to help your teeth move faster and with minimal discomfort. Their average treatment time is just 3-4 months, compared to 6 months for most others.
Treatment includes your first set of retainers. You'll also get their BrightByte 3-in-1 foam to whiten your teeth, clean your aligners and freshen your breath. And their Byte-for-life guarantee means you'll get free adjustments if your teeth start to move again.
Begin by ordering an impression kit so their orthodontists can assess whether you're a good match.
- Single-arch treatment option
- Nighttime aligners available
- Free refinements & 2 sets of retainers
- $699 (single-arch) or $999 (dual-arch)
Smileie's aligner treatment is not only affordable, but flexible too. You have the option of single-arch treatment for just your top or bottom teeth, as well as nighttime-only treatment. And whichever package you choose, monthly payments are available.
On top of this, Smileie offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee which includes free refinements if needed. Their aligners are made in the US and treatment takes 4-6 months on average.
Get the best discount when you purchase your aligner package up-front, including:
- Home impression kit
- Teeth whitening kit
- Two sets of retainers
- A full refund if you're not a good candidate
Packages start at $699 for single-arch treatment. Click below to check for current discounts!
Not ready to choose a brand? You can start by just taking a free assessment to find out if you're eligible for these types of clear aligners.
In recent years, these sorts of home teeth straightening kits have become quite popular in the US as more people wonder how to get straight teeth without braces or Invisalign. Important: these kits are not to be confused with fake braces DIY options. At-home aligners are less expensive than getting braces at the dentist because they cut out the middle man and everything is done by mail. This makes them popular among people looking for a cheaper alternative to Invisalign.
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 esthetics but still want a more affordable teeth straightening option, invisible braces might be the best teeth-straightening solution.
How to straighten teeth without braces
If you wonder how to make your teeth straight without braces, options are a bit limited. 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 but still get straight teeth. That being said, in some cases, you can get straighter teeth without braces. There are some alternative ways to straighten teeth that may work for you, depending on your circumstances.
Using a retainer for teeth straightening without braces
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 metal retainers and clear 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 removable retainers for teeth straightening. Where greater movement is required, you'll need to consider other options besides retainers. to straighten teeth.
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.
If you are interested in using a retainer to straighten teeth without braces, ask your dentist about your options. This treatment may work for you if your condition is extremely mild.
Can I use a night retainer to straighten teeth?
Most people wondering about straightening teeth without braces are worried about the braces aesthetic. If you're worried by the appearance of braces during the day consider getting invisible braces. These are hardly noticeable and are an effective treatment option. You can even get nighttime clear aligners which only have to be worn for 10 hours per day.
Can veneers straighten crooked teeth?
Veneers can't change the position of teeth, but 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 on 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, to get straight teeth it's possible to do less drastic cosmetic work by drilling down parts of the teeth, or teeth filing, (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.
How to straighten teeth naturally with mewing
If you're wondering how to make your teeth straighter without braces, you might have heard of ‘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. And if they're quite crowded, you may even need to have interproximal reduction treatment.
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 US?
The table below shows approximately how much it costs to straighten teeth using the different methods we've mentioned. You can see that the range is thousands of dollars.
$2,500 - $7,500
Usually the cheapest type of brace; may be offered on state-funded insurance
$3,000 - $10,000
Clear or tooth-colored material is less noticeable
More expensive than metal
$3,500 - $8,500
Removable and hard to notice
Require discipline; may not be suitable for severe malocclusions
$5,000 - $13,000
Hidden behind teeth
Can be very expensive
$100 - $750 per device
Cheap teeth straightening
Only suitable for mild correction
$500 - $2,500 per tooth
Quick cosmetic fix
Not a permanent solution; damages tooth enamel
$250 - $1,200 per tooth
Quick cosmetic fix; cheap
Not a permanent solution; damages tooth enamel
$1,200 - $2,400
Affordable and convenient
No face-to-face checkups
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.
Can you get teeth straightening on Medicaid?
Children whose treatment has been deemed medically necessary can get free teeth straightening in the US on CHIP or Medicaid. 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 state-funded insurance. You can also check out our article on Medicaid and Medicare for dental to find out more about eligibility for adults and children.
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 suitable for more severe cases.
Patients who are not deemed eligible, or who would prefer in-office treatment, will usually find that metal braces are the cheapest teeth straightening option.
Invisible braces like Invisalign teeth straightening treatment can be comparable in price to metal braces, especially if you don't need a long treatment course.
How can I find cheap teeth straightening near me?
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 a lot from one to another, so you should check. You can call 866-383-0748 to get connected with dentists offering braces near you now, and check their prices for the different treatments we've talked about here.
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. At-home aligners are a good choice if you're looking for affordable mild or cosmetic straightening. Otherwise, you should visit a dentist to discuss your options for straight teeth.
If you can believe it, some people even try homemade braces to straighten teeth. Please don't try this as you can damage your teeth and jaw, and make your problem worse.
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. An example of this is if you only need to straighten your front teeth, or a couple of bottom 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 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. 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.
How long does Invisalign take to straighten teeth?
The amount of time it will take to straighten your teeth with clear aligners depends entirely on the individual. If you have a very mild case of malocclusion, it can take as little as 6 months. But if your condition is more severe, you may have to wear your invisible braces for up to 2 years.
Can I straighten my teeth without braces at home?
The closest option would be a home straightening kit. This requires no office visits and can be more affordable than other options, and works for mild to moderate cases. If you're wondering how to straighten your teeth without braces naturally, there's really no DIY way to do this while guaranteeing results and without risk to your oral health.
Do retainers straighten teeth?
The primary use for retainers is to keep teeth aligned after orthodontic treatment. It's possible that your orthodontist may recommend a retainer for very slight adjustments, but it's not too common.
Mewing Transformation: Can Mewing Fix My Crooked Teeth? Consulted 27th June 2019.
Gorton & Schimol Orthodontics: Can Retainers Fix A Slight Shift Of Teeth After Braces? Consulted 29th June 2019.
Mouthhealthy: Braces. Consulted 4 July, 2019.