The top teeth straightening options for adults

Treatments & procedures

The top teeth straightening options for adults

Keen to boost your confidence with a straighter smile? Here are the top options for adult teeth straightening, including how long it takes and how much it costs. 

Braces have always been associated with awkward teenage years, so why are more adults getting their teeth straightened now? And what are the best teeth straightening options? Well, there a few factors at play, according to HCF orthodontist Dr Frank Tan.

Traditional and social media tops the list. “These days when you open a magazine or any media outlet, the first thing you notice is everyone has straight teeth, and that puts extra pressure on,” Dr Tan says.

And as you age, you may be more willing to invest your money in teeth straightening.

“Perhaps their parents couldn’t afford to take them [to an orthodontist] and now that they have the money themselves, they want to have the treatment done.”

Dr Tan adds that people often want to align their teeth to feel more confident in their smile.

A perfect smile isn’t the only upside of having adult braces or aligners. The benefits of braces also include:

  • an enhanced facial structure
  • making teeth easier to clean
  • better control of wear and tear of teeth
  • closing gaps in teeth
  • improving gum health
  • aligning jaws and to correct bite-related problems.

Here’s a breakdown of the best ways to straighten teeth available to you, as well as the time and cost involved. 

Traditional metal braces

Traditional braces can be worn by children, teens and adults alike. With this type of treatment, small metal brackets are attached to the teeth and connected by a thin wire. This wire is then adjusted regularly to gradually align your teeth.

Dr Tan says the benefit of traditional braces is that they are fixed, so they are easier to manage in some ways.

“But of course, when you’re an adult, and you have to socialise with people, you may be more aware of the look of the traditional braces.”

Ceramic or porcelain braces

Ceramic braces are a popular option for adults because they offer effective teeth straightening but are less obvious than traditional metal braces. Ceramic braces have clear or tooth-coloured brackets and optional tooth-coloured wires.

“Usually, with clear braces, it is clear porcelain brackets on the top, and then you have the metal one on the lower teeth,” Dr Tan says. 

“It’s rare that you have clear braces on the bottom because of the porcelain brackets; you can’t really place them on the bottom because when the top teeth hit the lower bracket, it will chip the teeth.” 

While ceramic braces are less visible, you can still see the metal wire. They work in the same way as traditional metal braces; the treatment time is the same (see below) and they produce the same results.

Clear aligners 

Clear aligners, like Invisalign or Spark brands, are an increasingly popular choice for adults as they’re virtually invisible when worn. Clear aligners or plates are also removable, making it easier for you to eat.

So, how do they work? “We scan the teeth, and then from the scan, we have a digital model of the patient’s teeth,” Dr Tan says.

The orthodontist makes an aligner based on the original mould and then moves it slightly, makes another aligner, and so on. The patient ends up with a series of aligners that they need to change every seven to 14 days. 

According to Dr Tan, a patient may need 10 or 20 different aligners throughout the course of their treatment, however for particularly complex cases, he’s seen patients who need up to 70. 

There's also a growing number of online companies offering do-it-yourself, at-home aligners complete with a kit that takes an imprint of your mouth. They're marketed as easier and cheaper than traditional treatment, but when weighing up your options, know they're not covered by most health funds. This is because there's no face-to-face consultation with a recognised, qualified orthodontist or dentist who can regularly check in on your progress.

How long does it take to straighten teeth?

For the majority of patients, teeth straightening with dental braces may take anywhere between six months and two years.

Once the braces or aligners are removed, it will be necessary to wear a retainer as a follow-up treatment to ensure your teeth stay in place. You may need to wear them every night or just a few nights a week. It’s common to wear retainers for years or even decades, says Orthodontics Australia.

Some studies show that aligners have a shorter overall treatment duration than traditional metal braces. But the period of time will vary depending on each individual case, so speak to your orthodontist about the best treatment option for you. 

How much do braces and aligners cost?

The overall cost of straightening your teeth will depend on the length of treatment needed.

“I would say with the traditional braces, you’re looking at about $9,500. With Invisalign, somewhere between $9,500 and $11,000,” Dr Tan says.

Your orthodontist may offer a payment plan to help spread out the cost of your treatment. If you have private health cover, you may be able to claim on your orthodontic treatment, depending on your level of extras cover and waiting periods.

Every case is different and you will get a better idea of the total cost after a consultation with your dentist or orthodontist.

What’s the best option for kids’ teeth straightening?

A visit to the orthodontist will help you decide whether your child needs braces.

While children and teenagers might usually get traditional metal braces, clear aligners are also an option for them.

“[Children] can still have clear aligners because, in the design, we can make allowances for the baby teeth,” Dr Tan says.

Invisalign has a teenage package, so if teeth are erupting, space will be made in the design for teeth to come up in order to accommodate that movement, he adds.

The only issue with removable aligners is they require a lot of care and attention, and the wearer needs to be disciplined and remember to keep them in 22 hours a day, which may be difficult for children and teens.

Dr Tan recommends children have an orthodontist assessment at age seven or eight. "We prefer to wait until this age at the earliest before starting any treatment, as there's not enough evidence to suggest intervention before this age prevents the need for braces in the future," he says.

Read about Dr Tan answering other commonly asked questions about kids’ braces, including the types of braces that are now available.

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Words by Nicola Conville
Published August 2022

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