Odd One Out: Do You Need Braces If You Have Just One Crooked Tooth?

Some people have an almost-flawless smile. Maybe they were born with perfectly straight teeth and then, as their teeth set with age, a single misalignment occurred causing one tooth overlap with another. Sometimes, years of biting can cause teeth to shift forward and backward in the mouth. Other people weren’t born with a naturally great smile and went through years of painful and expensive orthodontic treatment to earn their perfect smile. However, they were careless with their retainer and didn’t wear it as often as they should have, and as a result, one tooth goes astray. Is it worth investing in braces to fix a single crooked tooth? Before deciding whether or not you should correct the odd one out with braces, it's important for you to gain an understanding of what braces can do and what kind of commitment they require.

What Do Orthodontists Do?

Braces aren't all about having an aesthetically-pleasing smile. Orthodontists are first trained as regular dentists, then they are trained to be experts of the jaw and of tooth movement and alignment. When you go in for a consultation, the orthodontist sees more than crookedness or straightness. He or she also observes how your teeth line up when they close, and how your teeth sit in relation to your tongue. Orthodontists look at the spaces between your teeth to see if they are too crowded or too spread apart. They check for general tooth and gum health, but also for pain or discomfort you may feel in your jaw or as headaches. They can even see if your tooth alignment is causing problems to the way you speak and the way you breathe.

While braces will give you a great smile, they can bring with them health benefits; they may or may not be worth the cost and hassle for a single stray tooth. Imperfections, especially small ones, don't necessarily impede your "bite,” or the way your teeth align. They don't even necessarily cause your smile to appear crooked, especially if the misaligned tooth is in the lower half of your mouth that is usually covered by the lower lip.

Braces can be expensive and inconvenient. They typically cost between $3,000 and $6,000, usually paid as an initial deposit followed by monthly installments. Having braces means making periodical trips to the orthodontist over several years, and it means experiencing some pain as the teeth shift in the mouth. Some people, especially adults, don't like the aesthetic consequences of having a semi-permanent dental fixture.

People who want to fix a single tooth without investing in braces sometimes opt for a special type of retainer. The retainer has a spring that is designed to exert more pressure on the crooked tooth. It is far less expensive than braces, costing a few hundred rather than a few thousand dollars. However, it is not always as effective, and so some orthodontists are hesitant to suggest it as an alternative to braces.

Ultimately, your need for braces depends on a variety of factors, including general dental alignment, aesthetic preferences, and your lifestyle. If you're considering braces as an option, have a consultation with two or more orthodontists and get their opinions. Getting a variety of opinions can help you make an informed and confident decision.

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