Are Braces Always The Answer?
January 30, 2010 2:38 PM   Subscribe

So, I need some help with getting my teeth fixed. I know that there is bonding, veneers, braces, invisalign, retainers and whatnot.. But I need some comparisons. My question is two fold: What is the best option for my teeth; braces, invisalign, bonding, veneers? Second part of the question, what type of professional can I see that will give me an honest assessment?

My teeth have always bothered me. I'm 20 years old. So much so that I never smile.


There are the pictures. Obviously cost is going to factor into this, but I'm just wondering what to do. Braces seem like the typical go to answer, but my teeth aren't incredibly crooked.. They are just shaped wrong. So even with braces, it seems like the won't look that much better.

Honest opinions and evaluations are appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Honest opinions and evaluations are appreciated.

Anything you find out here is going to be basically useless compared to the opinion of an expert who is actually in the same room with you and your teeth.
posted by hermitosis at 2:43 PM on January 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Only a real-life professional will be able to tell you what the best option for you is. There might be issues with your teeth beyond strictly cosmetic ones, for example (your second picture suggests you have an overbite).

I would talk to a cosmetic dentist and an orthodontist. Many will do initial consults for free.
posted by cosmic osmo at 2:58 PM on January 30, 2010

You should go see your dentist, and ask for a recommendation for a good orthodontist.

My (totally unqualified) guess is that braces are the way to go. Your teeth don't look like they're shaped wrong to me. It just looks like they're a bit crooked. One thing I've been told about veneers is that they can be fairly delicate on front teeth--you won't be able to, say, bite right into an apple with them. They're also expensive. Just something to consider.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:00 PM on January 30, 2010

Among other things, one of the factors you should consider is that orthodontics are not merely for cosmetics -- having correctly aligned teeth makes you less susceptible to other dental problems down the road. If you choose veneers (or similar products) you will get the immediate results you desire but may be sacrificing better dental health down the road.
posted by gabrielsamoza at 3:00 PM on January 30, 2010

Also--if this is something that truly bothers you, don't listen to people who try and convince you that your teeth are "not that bad" or that you look fine. I'm not saying that your teeth are "that bad"--I got braces six months ago (for the second time!) at age 23 and I'm scheduled for surgery to correct an overbite sometime this year. People thought I was nuts for getting braces at my age, and don't understand why I would willingly have my jaw broken to correct something that "wasn't even noticeable." But you know what? My issues with my teeth were noticeable, to me. Even though I have braces, I'm smiling a lot more, because my teeth are straighter than they were six months ago. There are a lot of medically valid, non-cosmetic reasons to straighten your teeth and correct your bite, but the self-esteem boost is worth it, too.
posted by cosmic osmo at 3:07 PM on January 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get a consultation with an orthodontist. Find local recommendations from friends, neighbors or your own dentist. Find an orthodontist that you like and trust. As others have said, good orthodontal work will extend the health of your teeth, whereas veneers and bonding may put the health of your teeth at risk. As to what method of straightening you use -- invisalign, metal, porcelain, whatever -- a good orthodontist will be able to explain the pros and cons of each, such as price, comfort, speed of results, etc.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 3:28 PM on January 30, 2010

p.s. get a consultation with several orthodontists so that you can compare their ideas and approaches.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 3:29 PM on January 30, 2010

Go see 3 different dentists, including 1 who does cosmetic dentistry and one who does basic dentistry. You'll get a range of responses and prices. The sky's the limit on dental spending. You need to get a lot of info to make a decision.

I think your teeth look great. Pretty straight and even. Sure, if they really bug you, get them fixed. But try to do stuff that preserves the essential integrity of your teeth; veneers probably cause more damage than is a good idea.
posted by theora55 at 3:33 PM on January 30, 2010

I think your teeth look great too. Like Theora said, if they really bug you, get them fixed, but make sure they're protected long term and you're not just freaking out about something when you're twenty that will undermine their integrity like crazy when you're fifty.

I'd start by asking your general dentist. They know the range of choices out there, and they don't get a whole lot out of steering you in any particular direction.

And think twice about it. You have nice teeth. Start paying attention to celebrities who have really perfect fake looking teeth -- it's freaking disturbing. They look like they have artificial fingernails in their mouths. A quirk or two in a smile is utterly charming.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:08 PM on January 30, 2010

IANADentist, but I have worked in several different kinds of dentists' offices. Orthodontics would be a good start for you. I don't think you need veneers, unless you feel that your front teeth are too big (which, btw, I don't think they are.) When I got veneers, I had the dentist file my front teeth down, which hugely improved my self-confidence. If you have gum problems, though, veneers are going to be difficult.

Oh, and I bite into apples just fine, too.
posted by Ruki at 4:55 PM on January 30, 2010

Just chiming in as someone with a teeth/smile fetish, the shape, cant (inward/outward lean), size, etc. of your teeth are just fine to me. Charming, even. The only thing I can see as worth bothering with is the gap in the very front. That can easily be pulled together. Seriously, it'll take like two weeks, tops (cost is a different issue).

Don't worry so much, you've got good snags. :)
posted by iamkimiam at 5:04 PM on January 30, 2010

I'm totally with theora55 and A Terrible Llama. I think your teeth look great - white, healthy and reasonably straight. You should definitely get multiple good professional opinions, though, because if that's what's standing between you and smiling, well, it'd be a lot better to fix it so you can smile.

fwiw, everyone in my family, both sides, has this idiosyncratic dental arrangement where one or both top eye teeth are a little turned and a little protruding. as a result, everybody in my family looks like David Bowie (in the 1982 picture on the left).

everybody but me. for some reason, my eye teeth never turned. probably because I had my top wisdom teeth out (the horizontally impacted ones) before they jammed everything together. anyway, my teeth are very straight, considering no braces, but I think they're a little boring. my husband, OTOH, has the sexiest gap between his top front teeth. not big, just enough.

that's my Uncle Wiggley two cents.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:09 PM on January 30, 2010

Your teeth look totally fine to me too, by the way. My first reaction on seeing your photos was "Wait... what does he want fixed?" I don't quite know what you mean by "shaped wrong", either. I can see that your bottom teeth are sort of inward slanting, but I seriously doubt most people notice that. FWIW, I think the sort of unnaturally straight, uniformly slightly inward-slanting teeth of people who've had braces kind of funny looking. A few gaps and a little crookedness add character.

Go see an orthodontist if you'd like, but I think the more cost-effective way to make yourself look more attractive would be to start smiling and stop worrying about your very minor imperfections.
posted by MadamM at 5:48 PM on January 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your top teeth look good, minding the gaps. But your bottom teeth are what I would be concerned about: there appears to be a great deal of crowding, which is likely what's causing them to angle inwards. Well, that, and your overbite. While every mouth is different, there's not a lot you can do with the overbite at this point (assuming you're an adult); even with a strict headgear regiment.

I would say based on the limited photos that Invisaligns will probably do the trick for your top teeth, but for your bottoms you're going to need braces. Your teeth appear healthy, so I would strongly advise against veneers unless you've got tens of thousands of dollars to burn. An orthodontist (or two) will be able to give you more specific advice. IANAO, but I've had enough dental work to fill five lifetimes and find it exceptionally annoying when people take the time to post pointless dodges like "No one can help you here, go see a dentist," which is fucking obvious and fucking unhelpful.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:36 PM on January 30, 2010

as I'm lucky enough to have good teeth, I can't advise about braces and such. but I will share an anecdote about a friend's experience with regard to cost. he had just moved to southern california and needed extensive work done. his first consultation, in tony Newport Beach, ended with a cost estimate (above his insurance) of 10K and a meeting with their in-house financial advisor. his next stop was another dentist in a neighboring city with a much lower tax base. he got all the work done there, with top-notch results, and insurance covered every penny.

bottom line, shop around for cost as well as quality of work. good luck.
posted by killy willy at 10:16 PM on January 30, 2010

dude, I was expecting some crazy-ass meth mouth situation when you mentioned veneers, but the only thing different I'd notice about your teeth if we were talking together is the spacing of your top front teeth.

Is it just your teeth that bother you, and nothing else? If you can honestly answer that your teeth are the only thing holding you back, then do whatever you want. But if there's anything else, going to therapy would probably take loads off your shoulders.

I have an overbite and one of my front teeth is turned to overlap the other one a little. While my teeth aren't totally messed up, they aren't "perfect." I went to have my wisdom teeth looked at and removed last year, and the dentist told me that I should also have surgery to break my jaw and move it forward and get braces.

I don't see any reason to do that over some cosmetic issue that never bothered me, and trust me, I'm not even all that self-confident either!
posted by autoclavicle at 10:27 PM on January 30, 2010

p.s. I agree with the others that your teeth look fine but my point was that if you want them changed, an orthodontist is the person who can tell you what tweaks can be made.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 10:42 PM on January 30, 2010

Maybe you could post your questions at
posted by iviken at 12:39 PM on January 31, 2010

I got a veneer after chipping one of my teeth and have always regretted it. I was seventeen or eighteen and didn't have enough information and was terribly embarrassed to be seen with a chipped tooth (Freshman year of college). So, I felt pressured to just fix it fast. Got the veneer. It was traumatic. They actually shave off part of your natural tooth and replace it with ceramic. The tooth never felt the same since and I had nightmares for years (reliving the procedure, teeth falling out, etc.). Upshot: if at all possible, I would encourage you to be skeptical about anything that involves cutting away at your natural enamel.

PS your teeth look fine and totally normal. I'd focus on putting the time and money into something else.
posted by lorrer at 7:04 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

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