"I only need to straighten my upper teeth. How much does it cost if I just do one arch?" We are frequently asked some version of this question, along with the inevitable follow-up question: "If I'm only treating half my teeth, it should be half the cost, right?" On the surface, that seems like a reasonable and logical supposition. In this post, we go a little deeper to explain why it doesn't exactly work that way.
Orthodontics is complex. There's a reason why a dentist undergoes three additional years of training to become a Board Certified orthodontist. Aesthetics is only one of several important considerations when planning treatment. Another critical consideration is the occlusion. Occlusion, in a dental context, is simply the contact between upper (maxillary) and lower (mandibular) teeth.
A healthy occlusion is both comfortable and functional. An unhealthy occlusion can result in problems ranging from accelerated tooth wear and chipping to jaw and neck pain and headaches. When prescribing a tooth movement, the doctor must consider how the movement will affect the way that the tooth contacts the teeth in the opposing arch. Complementary movements in the opposing teeth should also be prescribed when necessary to preserve or improve bite function.
Does this mean that it is never advisable to treat just the upper teeth or just the lower teeth? No. Many times it is possible to correct minor misalignments in one arch without compromising bite function. Bite function may even be improved. But a competent and responsible doctor will want to look at the occlusal relationship before prescribing single arch treatment.
It's like baking cookies
The production process doesn't change at all with a single arch treatment. Impressions of both arches still have to be taken and digitized. Models of the teeth at each stage are 3D printed and cured. Then the aligners are formed on the 3D-printed models using a vacuum forming process. After that, they are trimmed, buffed, and polished before the final quality control process. Finally, the aligners are packaged and shipped. It's not unlike the process of baking cookies. When you bake cookies, doubling the ingredients will yield twice as many cookies. The cost of the extra ingredients is relatively small relative to the time and expertise of the baker. The only difference between baking one tray of cookies or two trays is the amount of ingredients. All the other parts of the process are the same either way.
Regardless of whether one arch or both arches are being treated, the number of aligners required can vary. Some cases require as few as 5 or 6 aligners. Some more than 20 aligners. The quantity of aligners do change production costs, but not as much as you might assume. The biggest cost associated with delivering care is the doctors' time in diagnosing and treatment planning. At Strayt®, all treatment plans are directed by a Board Certified Orthodontist AND peer-reviewed by another doctor. Treating one arch without treating the other arch can sometimes make the treatment planning more complex, not simpler.
Whitening - BEWARE
At Strayt® we prefer mild whitening treatments to harsher "shock" whitening regimens. Our mild whitening foam gradually whitens teeth while wearing the aligners. It also keeps the aligners clean and helps keep your breath fresh.
Assuming a patient utilizes a whitening foam while going through single arch aligner therapy, that arch will become several shades whiter than the other arch. That may not seem like a big deal, but it is VERY noticeable. You'll want to make sure you whiten all of your teeth evenly at the same time!