We all have aspects of ourselves we don’t like; for some of us, it’s our smile. Everyone wants a million-dollar smile. Getting one can be a challenge, though. For one thing, orthodontic treatment is expensive. Others feel that only their bottom teeth are crooked enough to warrant treatment.
If that’s the case, why spend the time and money to treat both arches of teeth? Why not, for instance, treat just the bottom teeth? Technically speaking, single arch aligner treatment is possible, but it’s not a straightforward treatment process. In fact, it’s often tougher to treat just one arch than treating both at the same time.
Typically, treating one arch only requires careful orthodontist observation. That oversight requirement means that single-arch treatment rarely works for home teeth aligners.
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How Aligners Adjust Dental Arches
When you first think of orthodontic treatment, it’s tempting to just consider the aesthetics of making your teeth less crooked. But there’s a bit more to it than that. Think about it: when you move one tooth, all of the tissues and other teeth around it are affected, too. Nothing moves in isolation.
For example, let’s consider two common dental issues that home aligners correct: crowding and spacing. When you push crowded teeth apart, they don’t overlap anymore. Instead, they sit side by side, and the arch of teeth gets wider. In contrast, if you treat spacing, the arch of teeth gets smaller because you’ve closed the gaps between them.
Widening or narrowing your arch ultimately affects your bite. In an ideal smile, your top and bottom arches line up almost perfectly. So if you widen or narrow one arch and not the other, you can cause bite issues you didn’t originally have. That’s why home aligner companies adjust both rows of teeth at the same time.
Circumstances for Only Bottom Teeth Treatment
Bottom-only treatment is extremely rare; even when it seems like your top teeth are the only crooked ones, you probably need your bottom ones adjusted, too. Usually, single-arch treatment is reserved for very minor cases that already have a well-aligned bite.
Whether or not you’re a candidate for single-arch treatment also depends on the positioning of your bite and your teeth. When moved, crowded teeth tend to move forward while spaced-out teeth typically move backwards in your mouth. For example, someone who had a minor underbite and spaced out bottom teeth might be a good candidate for single-arch treatment because the teeth, once straightened, might move back enough to see the arches align correctly.
You won’t be able to judge whether or not you’re a good candidate for bottom-only treatment at home. An orthodontist is your best resource to find out if you’re a good fit. And even when you are a candidate, your case typically needs careful, in-person oversight.
Why Home Aligners Adjust Both Arches
In general, home aligner companies don’t provide the type of oversight needed to move just one arch safely. Here’s why: shifting even just a couple teeth alters the shape and position of your bite. Typically, treating just one row of teeth can throw off your bite. The bottom teeth need to follow the shift of the upper ones so they still line up.
Home aligners don’t involve in-person oversight to track your treatment progress. Instead, they use software to predict how your teeth will move. Then, they design the aligners necessary to create those movements. This software doesn’t account for a single arch treatment, and to top it off, shifting one row is less predictable. As a result, single-arch treatments usually require regular oversight.
Most home aligner companies stay away from single-arch treatment entirely (although some will consider treating just one row in really rare cases). By doing so, home aligner companies ensure that you aren’t left with an uneven bite. Bite issues can cause long-term problems like bad breath, jaw soreness, and enamel wear.
Wearing both sets of aligners prevents both cosmetic and health issues in the long-term, saving you time and money. And to make things even better, the price to treat one arch is the same as two arches, so it won’t cost you any additional money.
Which Home Aligner Companies Offer Single Arch Treatment?
We’d strongly recommend that you treat both arches simultaneously, especially if you’re going to use a home aligner treatment. That’s the most surefire way to keep your bite aligned properly. And since home aligner companies charge a flat fee, regardless of how many aligners you need, it’s not as if doing so will cost you extra.
That said, if you’re still leaning towards single arch treatment, SnapCorrect is the only company that offers single arch treatment at this time.
To be safe, we think you should treat both arches at the same time. Granted, we can’t give an answer for everyone’s smile—everyone’s smile is unique—but for the majority of people, treating the top and bottom is the best course of action.
There are several fantastic home aligner companies that can safely correct your top and bottom arch. Byte and Candid are our two favorites, though.
Byte is our favorite home aligner company, and there’s a lot to love about them. For one thing, Byte is the fastest company out there, with the average treatment time lasting just 3 months. That raw speed is all thanks to their HyperByte system (included in every treatment kit). Plus, Byte also offers both daytime and nighttime treatments, giving you any flexibility you need.
Last but not least, Byte’s Byte-for-Life guarantee ensures that your newly-perfected smile lasts forever. If you’re curious about Byte treatment, check out our full review.
Our second pick goes to Candid, but we love them for a different reason. Candid offers Remote Monitoring, a program that mimics the frequent oversight you’d get with an in-office treatment method. Here’s how: on a regular basis, you’ll send photo updates to the Candid team using your smartphone and a special imaging device. While that oversight isn’t enough to safely offer single-arch treatment, it does guarantee safe, effective results for both arches. Remote Monitoring also speeds up treatment for a lot of people, too, since the Candid team may give you the go-ahead to move on to your next aligner. If you’d like to know more about Candid, find our full review here.
Home aligner companies have your best interests in mind when they insist on treating both arches simultaneously. Even when it seems like you only need to have your bottom (or top) arch adjusted, treating both arches avoids long-term issues like bite misalignments. It’s very unusual for someone to be a good candidate for treating the bottom arch only.
Before you bite the bullet one way or another, we encourage you to research all your treatment methods. More importantly, you should consult with your dentist or orthodontist to discuss your smile’s needs, your long-term dental health, and your treatment options. Your primary care provider knows your smile best, so he or she can give you individualized recommendations that will set you up for successful treatment.
If you’re leaning towards home aligner treatments, then we’d love to help you find the perfect one for you. To learn more about home aligners, check out our full comparison review of the Top 4 Home Aligners.