What Are Your Alternatives to Braces? Treatments, Pros and Cons

Finding treatment options to adjust your crooked teeth into perfectly straight teeth used to have only one option: traditional metal braces. They were noticeable, often uncomfortable, and made you look like you should be back in middle school despite being a working adult or college student.

Thankfully, wearing braces isn’t your only option to fix your teeth anymore. There is a vast variety of orthodontic treatment choices available for people who want to ditch the usual methods of straightening their teeth.

This article covers the best alternatives to braces, who they’re suited for, and how they work.

Quick Overview: Alternative for Traditional Braces

Braces Alternative

OverviewAverage Cost Without InsuranceAverage Cost With Insurance

Average Treatment Duration

Headgear BracesWorn alongside braces in most cases and works to realign an overbite or underbite.$2,000 – $8,000$2,000 – $8,000One to two years
Accelerated OrthodonticsA minor surgical procedure is used to speed up treatment with braces or clear aligners.$2,000 – $6,000Not coveredAround one hour
RetainersMetal or plastic molds or wires used to gently move or keep your teeth in place.$150 – $600Free for one retainer post-treatmentOne year or more
VeneersHard porcelain or composite shells that look like teeth bonded to your natural or filed down teeth with a special adhesive$925 – $2,500 per toothNot coveredTwo weeks of three to four appointments
Six Month SmilesTooth-colored braces are used only on your front six teeth to improve the appearance of your smile$3,500 – $5,000Not coveredSix months

Types Of Braces

Although this article mainly covers alternatives to wearing braces, informing yourself of the types available can help you make an educated choice about the treatment route you wish to follow.

The main types of braces available for orthodontic treatment include:

Alternatives to Braces

  • Traditional metal braces are called such because they consist of metal brackets and metal wires attached to your teeth with a special adhesive. They may at times also have colored elastic bands wrapped around each bracket.
  • Ceramic braces are a great choice of braces for adults to straighten their crooked teeth as they have ceramic brackets that make them much less noticeable. Ceramic braces are more prone to getting stained, however, and may need more frequent replacements.
  • Lingual braces are installed on the inside of your teeth, not the outside. This makes lingual braces virtually invisible and a great option if you want to keep your orthodontic treatment to yourself.

Alternatives to Braces and Invisalign

If you are looking for an alternative to traditional metal braces, or even alternatives to braces in general, the following treatment options may be right for you.

1. Headgear Braces

Average CostWho Are They For? Can You Remove Them?Maintenance
$1,000 – $9,000For people who need to realign their bite, typically due to an over- or underbiteYes, headgear can be removed for a few hours a day, provided you stick to your orthodontist’s treatment recommendations.Relatively easy to maintain, only requiring regular cleaning of the headgear parts that go in your mouth.

Headgear braces are only recommended in particular cases such as:

  • Severe misalignments
  • Jaw misalignments, including overbites and underbites
  • Severe tooth crowding
  • Large tooth spacing issues

Headgear works by different mechanisms according to their type. Reverse pull headgear mainly functions to realign an underbite that helps pull your upper jaw forward as it grows.

On the other hand, cervical pull headgear is best suited for treating buck teeth, or what is known by your orthodontist as an overjet.

A high pull headgear also focuses on fixing an overjet but does so with straps reaching to the back and top of your head.

The cost of headgear varies greatly according to the extent of the treatment you require. It is also important to note that you will likely have to wear braces with your headgear should you have crooked or misaligned teeth and a bad bite.

You may have to wear headgear between 12 and 22 hours a day for one to two years to allow your teeth and jaw to move and grow into the correct position.

All headgear braces are custom made to fit your face and adjust your specific malocclusion needs, and because of this, most dental insurance plans will cover half or more of the total treatment cost.

After wearing headgear, you may have to switch to a retainer to maintain the progress made with realigning your teeth.

For more information on orthodontic headgear, check out our complete braces alternative article.

Pros

  • Can fix serious alignment or spacing issues
  • It is removable, although a daily wear time quota must be reached.
  • Can speed up overall treatment time

Cons

  • A very noticeable form of orthodontic treatment
  • Can cause slight discomfort at first
  • Must be used alongside regular metal braces in most cases

2. Accelerated Orthodontics

Average CostWho Are They For? Can You Remove Them?Maintenance
$2,000 – $6,000 in addition to the cost of bracesAdults looking for faster orthodontic treatment or enhancing their current treatment plan.No, accelerated orthodontics is a minor surgical procedure accompanying wearing some form of braces.Slight discomfort may be experienced after the procedure. However, maintenance varies according to the type you’re wearing.

Another braces alternative is accelerated orthodontics, which involves a minor surgical procedure where an orthodontist makes several tiny incisions or perforations in the bones surrounding your teeth. This irritation causes an inflammatory response and stimulates bone growth along with the affected areas.

This tissue growth helps your teeth move faster and is why accelerated orthodontics is so effective at reducing treatment time.

During or after the procedure, you will still have to wear either metal braces or the braces of your choice to pull your teeth into the correct position.

Accelerated orthodontics is not seen as an essential treatment, and in most cases, the procedure required won’t be covered by insurance. This can make the extra treatment quite costly compared to other traditional orthodontic treatment options.

You may also experience a mild discomfort and a lasting itching feeling in your gums due to the pace at which your teeth move.

However, if you want to get braces treatment over quickly, this may be your best option.

Pros

  • Can reduce treatment time to correct crooked teeth by up to half
  • Can accompany your braces treatment of choice
  • It can improve your oral and dental health faster, including benefiting your gums and ability to chew

Cons

  • The treatment costs do not cover the braces you will still have to wear during or after the procedure
  • It could cause an itching sensation due to how quickly your teeth are moving

3. Retainers

Average CostWho Are They For?)Can You Remove Them?Maintenance 
$150 – $600 People with very minor teeth alignment or spacing issues.Yes, although you need to keep them on for a specific amount of time each day.Retainers are easier than braces in some ways, considering you can remove them and eat what you want. However, you may need to brush even more often while wearing them compared to wearing traditional braces.

Retainers are typically used after treatment with braces to ensure your teeth don’t go back to being misaligned or crooked. However, retainers can also be used without braces to fix minor crowding or spacing issues.

Each retainer is custom-made to fit inside your mouth, while metal wires are used to pull your teeth into the correct position. The material used to make a retainer isn’t as strong as braces or clear aligners, so you may have to wear a retainer for several years to fix the problem and even longer after that to maintain your new tooth alignment.

In most cases, insurance will only cover one post-treatment retainer, meaning using a retainer to straighten your teeth in the first place may be an out-of-pocket cost. However, many orthodontist offices offer financing plans for their treatments and may allow you to pay off the cost of the retainer every month.

If you’re interested in learning more about retainers for fixing your teeth, check out our braces alternative article on the topic.

Pros

  • Very affordable way of fixing a minor alignment issue
  • You can eat whatever you like, provided you remove them before doing so
  • They are less noticeable than regular metal braces

Cons

  • They aren’t suitable for people with moderate to severe alignment issues
  • You need to brush and floss your teeth even more often when wearing retainers

4. Veneers

Average CostWho Are They For? Can You Remove Them?Maintenance 
$925 – $2,500 a toothIndividuals looking for an instant fix have worn-down teeth or want perfectly straight teeth.No, they’re fitted to your teeth with a light-sensitive adhesiveThey are very easy to maintain, extremely stain resistant to things like tobacco smoke and red wine, and last for up to 15 years.

Veneers usually involve wafer-thin, hard shells that resemble your teeth being permanently bonded to your actual teeth that are either in their natural state or have been altered and the tooth enamel worn down in the case of crowding.

This creates the outward appearance of perfectly straight, perfectly white teeth in only a few appointments compared to the years required for metal braces and other treatment plans recommended by your orthodontist.

There are several types of dental veneers or similar treatments, each with its own processes. The most common types of veneers include:

  • Porcelain veneers are the longest-lasting veneer options available, and many adults use them, especially for fixing issues with their front teeth.
  • Composite veneers are less expensive than porcelain veneers, although they do not last quite as long and are made of a combination of different materials and resins.
  • Dental bonding is similar to veneer installation except that the resin is applied directly to your tooth as a liquid to repair any damage or reshape your tooth.
  • No prep veneers provide a less expensive alternative to other veneers, as very little of the natural tooth structure is changed before installation.

Most insurance plans don’t cover veneers as they are considered a cosmetic treatment, leading to exorbitant prices, especially if treating more than one tooth.

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Pros

  • Are an instant fix for chipped, worn down, or severely misaligned teeth.
  • Extremely strong and can last up to 15 years
  • Can replace damaged tooth enamel
  • Custom made to fit each tooth

Cons

  • Expensive and not covered by insurance
  • Dental veneers may increase your tooth sensitivity
  • Most veneers will eventually need to be replaced, and the process can’t be reversed

5. Six Month Smiles

Average CostWho Are They For? Can You Remove Them?Maintenance
$3,500 – $5,000People who wish to straighten their front teeth for cosmetic reasons.No, the treatment still uses brackets and tooth-colored wires like standard braces.Maintenance follows a similar plan as regular braces and requires brushing, flossing, and avoiding sticky or crunchy food.

Despite Six Month Smiles braces resembling a traditional orthodontic treatment, the process is mainly done for cosmetic purposes. It involves using tooth-colored wires and brackets on your front six teeth to align them and correct any crowding or spacing issues.

Unlike metal braces, this braces alternative exert much less force on your teeth and are typically not covered by insurance plans as they are classified as a cosmetic correction.

Six Month Smiles braces are suitable for people who want to straighten their front teeth to perfect their smile and don’t need any major realignment.

Pros

  • Only takes around six months to complete treatment
  • Braces are nearly invisible
  • Uses much less force to move teeth than regular braces

Cons

  • It only focuses on your six front teeth.
  • It is meant for cosmetic treatment and not to fix severe misalignments or bad bites.

Other Options Besides Braces: Clear Aligners

Another form of orthodontics or correction method for misaligned teeth is clear aligners. These invisible braces consist of clear plastic trays custom-made to fit your teeth and gently pull them into the correct position.

Average CostWho Are They For? Can You Remove Them?Maintenance
$1,145 – $7,000People with minor misalignments or spacing issues.Yes, they are completely removable, although most need to be kept on for at least 22 hours a day.Maintenance requires following the treatment plan created by your orthodontist or the instructions that accompanied your clear plastic aligners.

Many adults choose to use clear aligners like Invisalign as a popular alternative to traditional braces. Unlike metal braces, clear braces are virtually invisible and some brands, like Byte Aligners and AlignerCo offer mail-order aligners that can be obtained without visiting an orthodontist or dentist, although this is not approved by the American Dental Association.

Many adult patients choose to use clear braces as they can be removed while eating and are less noticeable than other options. In many cases, they are also far more affordable than traditional treatments.

Byte Aligners and AlignerCo offers a range of treatment options to suit your needs, as well as a home impressions kit, meaning you have no reason to attend an orthodontist appointment for your misaligned teeth.

In most cases, correction with clear aligners takes 6-18 months.

For more information on clear braces, check out our Byte Aligners review and AlignerCo review.

FAQ

When Are Braces Not the Best Solution?

What Can Be Used Instead of Braces?

What Are Cheaper Alternatives to Braces?

Are There Alternatives to Braces for Overbite?

What Alternatives to Braces Are Completely Invisible?

Are There Alternatives to Metal Braces?

How Can I Straighten My Teeth Without Braces?

Are There Holistic Alternatives to Braces?

Conclusion

If traditional braces aren’t the road you want to take to turn your crooked teeth into a perfect smile, rest assured they aren’t your only option.

Whether you choose more complicated orthodontic treatments like veneers or accelerated orthodontics or take a simpler route with invisible aligners, braces are no longer the only way to get perfectly spaced, straight teeth.