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Can I Get Braces Just on My Top or Bottom Teeth?

By April 3, 2017May 22nd, 202225 Comments
braces just on my top or bottom teeth

Patients at our El Dorado Hills orthodontic practice frequently ask about getting braces for the top teeth only either because their bottom teeth are straight or they feel like they’re not that visible so they don’t see the point. Less commonly, someone will visit us who is interested in braces on the bottom teeth only. While single arch treatment can be effective, there are a lot of factors that have to line up for this to be the case, which is why we take the time to evaluate your needs and concerns at Jeffrey Kwong Orthodontics.

What is Single Arch Orthodontic Treatment?

Single arch or one-arch treatment involves using braces or Invisalign on just the top teeth or just the bottom teeth but not both. While some orthodontists will put braces on the top teeth first before moving onto the bottom teeth, or vice versa, that’s a little different and still involves eventually addressing both sets of teeth. When an orthodontist opts for just top teeth braces or bottom teeth braces, they only do so after looking at the bite, or the relationship between the lower and upper teeth, because changing just one set of teeth will affect your “overbite.”

When is Single Arch Treatment Effective?

As we mentioned earlier, single arch treatment can be effective in certain instances. Since crooked teeth tend to shift forward once they’re straightened, if you have crowded lower teeth, straight upper teeth and a significant overbite, which is when the top teeth stick out too far past the bottom teeth, getting braces on the bottom teeth only might work.  Alternatively, braces just on the top teeth would be effective if there is spacing between the upper teeth, you have an overbite and you’re happy with how your bottom teeth look. Closing the spaces will have the opposite effect of straightening crowded teeth. It will move the teeth back, which could improve the overbite while closing gaps.

If your upper teeth are behind the bottom ones, as with an underbite, and you have crowded top teeth, single arch treatment may potentially fix the issue.  Keep in mind, if the bite is okay in the back and just the front teeth are crowded, braces on the top teeth only will create an overbite.  Sometimes we can lessen this upper arch flaring by reducing the size of the upper teeth with what is known as air rotor stripping (ARS) or interproximal reduction (IPR). Be aware that not everyone is a good candidate for these treatments though and the best way to find out if you are a candidate is to have your bite evaluated by an orthodontic specialist.

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The Risks of Getting Braces on Just the Top or Bottom Teeth

Your smile isn’t just dependent on the position of your teeth. Your bite is actually a complicated relationship that involves your jaws as well.  If your jaws are not balanced (e.g. one is larger or smaller than the other), that can definitely affect how well your teeth can fit together. There are times when single arch treatment may leave you with a worse bite, causing your front or back teeth to touch too hard (making your teeth more likely to break down or chip, or putting excess pressure on the bone and gums), or not touch at all (reducing function). The importance of an even bite is that it will help distribute everyday forces on the teeth evenly to prevent wearing of the teeth, and trauma to the teeth and gums. Our goal is a beautiful smile with a healthy bite.

When we get older, our bites tend to deepen and the front teeth overlap more, which leaves almost no space between the back of the top teeth and the front of the lower teeth. You need some clearance to align the bite so you would have to reposition both the upper and lower arch, making single arch treatment impossible.

Another factor to consider is the way teeth move depending on their position. For example, as we said before, crowded teeth will move forward when straightened and teeth with spaces between them will move backwards. If you’re suffering from an underbite and you just straighten crooked bottom teeth, it will make it worse. Teeth may appear straighter but the bite will be off. If your top teeth are the ones that are crowded and you already have an overbite, addressing them alone will cause the overbite to grow larger throughout treatment.   

The only way to determine if single arch treatment will work in your case, is to visit an orthodontist so they can evaluate your bite. If you’re interested in braces or Invisalign in El Dorado Hills, contact Jeffrey Kwong Orthodontics for a free consultation. Dr. Kwong will be able to determine which course of treatment will produce the best possible results for your smile.  #SmileMoreLiveMore

Join the discussion 25 Comments

  • cedric says:

    will the pricing still be the same or different if i wan to treat just the upper teeth rather than both

    • Hi Cedric, sorry about the late reply, I missed this. Usually if the treatment is more limited, the cost of treatment will reflect that depending on the type of appliance used.

    • Madelyn says:

      I see the picture at the top of the page is a girl and her top incisor teeth next to her front teeth and fairly short and look quite like mine. I am very scared how I’ll look in braces. Do you think that braces could possibly pull done those teeth to match length of my front teeth?

      • Teeth come in all shapes and sizes and there is some variability in width and length especially with the teeth beside your front ones. The teeth can definitely be moved vertically, and when we set up their positioning for a good functional bite, it’s uncommon to bring them down all the way to match the length of the center ones. We usually position them about 0.5mm “higher”. Sometimes if the teeth are too short/narrow, it’s necessary to have a dentist reshape and add material to make them longer/wider in addition to the orthodontic treatment.

  • Sunegha says:

    will I need to wear a clear retainer in the opposite arch if I opt for single arch treatment with aligners.

    • Hi Sunegha, that’s up to the treating doctor to describe, but it is common that a clear retainer would be used for the teeth that aren’t being moved, while the other teeth are being treated with aligners.

  • Jot says:

    My upper two teeth in the front have a gap.. would a single arch treatment help?

    • Hi Jot,
      There’s a good possibility, but I would suggest a consultation with an Orthodontist to check how much space, and if the lower teeth are in the way of closing that space. Let us know if we can help further; consultations are complimentary.

  • Ruby says:

    Hi.. actually I am wearing braces since 5 months and I have noticed that my lower teeth are pushing forward than the normal tooth alignment. And I am not sure if I am orthodontist is noticing it or not. Please tell me is it normal is shall I inform my ortho?

    • Hi Ruby, generally that’s very normal. Teeth typically do bloom like a flower, so some amount of forward movement is normal. If you’re unsure, I’m sure your Orthodontist will be able to take a look and let you know if that’s what they were expecting.

  • Heya Daud says:

    Hey i am already wearing braces. My upper arch is now well aligned and the lower arch still needs time. Can i remove braces from the upper arch and move to permanent retainers? While my lower arch straightens up.
    Or i remove the braces and use invisalign for the upper arch while my lower arch is still under treatment?

    • Hi Heya, if the upper arch is ahead of the lower arch, it’s possible that the bite might still need to be worked on with elastics or in some other way. Typically the braces are removed together once the bite and the alignment are all looking great. If you want to move to something like Invisalign on the upper, you’ll have to discuss that with your orthodontist. Invisalign is a lab and they have lab fees to fabricate clear aligners, so if you choose this route, be prepared that it will be more costly.

  • Farhan says:

    Hi…My bottom teeths are more forward than my top teeths .Also I have an extra teeth on the bottom part that needs to be removed. Will it work if I only get my bottom teeths braces or would I need to get both . My upper teeths are perfectly aligned tho

    • Hi Farhan, it really depends on how your teeth fit together. This is a situation that sounds more complicated with extra teeth that require removal. A consultation with an Orthodontist with xrays and photos is your best option. Let them know that you wanted to consider lower treatment only and ask what the benefits/risks are compared to full treatment. Good luck!

    • Farhan, it all depends on how your teeth come together and what goals you and your Orthodontist come to agreement upon. Without seeing your teeth and doing an in person consultation, I don’t have enough information to give you an opinion on this. My suggestion is to find a local Orthodontic specialist who can help walk you through the pros and cons of single vs. both arch treatment.

  • Laura Farnham says:

    It was advised I get braces on bottom teeth first, then move onto the top due to my TMJ. I have agreed to wear my mouthpiece to avoid the brackets hitting my teeth. However my dentist doesn’t agree with this method and thinks ill be fine wearing both at the same time. I’m torn between opinions. My dentist wants me to get a second opinion from someone he recommends.

    • Hi Laura, sorry about the delayed response. There are many ways to get from point A to point B, and what you’ve described is a common approach for TMD concerns that help to keep the bite (and bite dimension) from changing after a mouthpiece/splint is worn. I think it would be reasonable to touch base with your current orthodontist to ask them about their approach and why they chose it. Ultimately, it will be the Orthodontist responsible for your orthodontic care and the mechanics they choose to treat your particular situation.

  • Amelia says:


    I had braces for a year and a half on my upper and lower teeth. Last year I got them taken off and had to wear my retainers, unfortunately I didn’t wear them for a period of time and now my teeth have gone back to their original state post braces. The top top have a gap between them and the tooth next to it has gone back. What do I do?


    • Hi Amelia, I’m sorry that happened. In this situation I would reach out to your Orthodontist to have them take a look so that they can let you know what options are reasonable. Depending on how much they have moved, the retreatment could be very minimal or almost as extensive as your original plan. I know that it’s going to make for an awkward conversation but it’s the best place to start making a plan.


    I have braces for my bottom teeth that are crowded. My top teeth are straight and doesn’t need braces. My ortho made me a clear removeable retainer for my top teeth while my bottom teeth move. I have a slight overbite. Why would I need to wear my top retainer? Will my top teeth move while my bottom teeth are moving? If so, how? Will they move forward or backward? I can’t find any research on this and I’m curious.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge

    • Daphne, great question. I think your Orthodontist did you a great service by having an upper retainer while your bottom teeth are in treatment. Teeth in general can move over a lifetime because “Nothing in the body stays in the exact same spot over your lifetime”. So if you’re happy with the position now, best to wear a retainer to hold their position.

  • Sydney says:

    If I only get braces on the top, will they be able to pull my top teeth down out of the gum at all?

    • Hi Sydney! So there are a few different things that might come into play here. What I think you might be asking is, can you show more length of your upper teeth. So with that in mind: 1) Braces can “pull your teeth down”, but it may not necessarily pull it out of the gums. The gums usually travel along with the teeth. If a tooth appears short, it might be due to wear and tear on the edge, or gum tissues that cover up too much of the teeth. The latter concern is best addressed with some gum recontouring (aka gingivoplasty). 2) If a tooth is stuck (aka impacted), braces can help to bring the tooth in depending on the severity of the impaction. 3) It does also depend on where your bottom teeth are. If you cover a lot of your bottom teeth, there may not be room to move the upper teeth down. I hope this answers some of your questions. If you need more help, I would suggest a consultation with a local Orthodontist (a Specialist in Orthodontics)

  • ashley says:

    my husband is 30 years old. He went to the dentist yesterday for a cleaning and they said he might need braces because he has edge to edge teeth. Our insurance does not cover braces at all so I’m really hoping he doesn’t need it. His teeth have always been fine. Is it absolutely necessary for “edge to edge teeth”? and if so could he just get it on top or bottom instead of both? I also have TMJ (loud popping) and might need braces how do i know braces would be effective since there are many cause of tmj?

    • Hi Ashley, thanks for stopping by our blog. Edge to edge bites can be pretty destructive as they can wear into the inner part of the tooth (the dentin) which is much less resistant to wear than the outside (the enamel). In bites like this, if we wait too long to address them, we can see significant wear and tear, and that might lead to not only braces (orthodontic) treatment, but also dental work to regain the tooth structure that was worn down. I would suggest an evaluation with an Orthodontist who is a specialist in bites and teeth. Regarding your concerns about your TM joint, joints involve many tissues and popping and clicking can be common. Orthodontics isn’t a cure for joint noises, nor is it a cause. Sometimes, but rarely, the bite can affect the joint and an orthodontic consultation could help get you some answers. Not all orthodontists treat TMD, but it’s worth finding out. Head to the American Association of Orthodontists ( to find an Orthodontic specialist near you; typically referrals through your dentist are not necessary.

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