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What Are Partial Braces? Cost, Pros & Cons, And Common Questions

Partial braces applied to mouth

Some patients may not have severe malocclusions, but they could still have minor bite issues that warrant correction. Sometimes, it’s just a single problem tooth, or a few crowded and crooked problem teeth, that are holding the patient back from achieving their full smile potential.

In these cases, mild gaps or isolated alignment issues could be intercepted using only partial (or sometimes known as limited) braces. Unlike conventional braces that are worn over the entire dental arch, partial braces usually just cover a few of the upper or lower front teeth, and are used to resolve the isolated issue(s). Keep reading to learn more about this type of orthodontic treatment, how it works, how much it costs to use, and how often it can be used.

How Do Partial Braces Work?

Since partial braces only cover a few front teeth, back brackets (called molar tubes) will often be placed on the molars to keep the arch wire, and subsequently, the front brackets, in place. Like any other type of braces, the wire will gradually straighten and align the misaligned teeth over time.

Since it’s only treating a few teeth, this treatment duration is usually shorter, lasting at least a year at most max, and applicable for patients of all ages. Partial braces can also be used on just a single dental arch exclusively, instead of both the upper and lower arches.

With child patients, these types of orthodontic appliances may sometimes be used as a supplemental treatment to streamline the orthodontic treatment process when they’re older, which is why they’re sometimes known as “Phase One Treatment”. Some of these specific issues these particular braces may be used to treat include:

  • Open bite
  • Crowding
  • Crossbite of front and back teeth
  • Deep overbite
  • Spacing
  • Thumb sucking habits (with younger patients)
  • Flared teeth
  • Underbite

Even though they only encompass a few teeth, it’s still extremely important to take diligent care of your partial braces, as you would with full braces. If anything, your wire will be more at risk and breakage prone, as it’s not supported by your entire dental arch. To practice adequate due diligence with your partial braces, it’s important to adhere to the following:

  • Only stick to foods suitable for a braces-friendly diet, and avoid ones that aren’t
  • Avoid dark and/or acidic liquids that could stain the brackets
  • Brush at a 45-degree angle to minimize direct pressure on the appliance
  • Floss behind the wire
  • If breakage occurs, use orthodontic wax to ease pain and hold brackets in place
  • Following the above step, seek emergency orthodontic care ASAP

What Do Partial Braces Look Like?

Partial braces look like any other set of front-facing braces, with the only difference being that they just cover a few front teeth, or only one dental arch. So, subsequently, they are marginally less noticeable and prominent than full sets of braces, but it’s still a given that they’ll likely be noticed.

If you or your child are concerned about appearance insecurity, clear brackets are close (though not alike) to the color of the teeth may be a viable option for minimizing the prominence of the metal partial braces. Alternatively, if the patient is old enough, they may be a candidate for limited Invisalign clear aligner use.

How Much Do Partial Braces Cost?

As partial braces encompass less teeth, it’s logical to assume that they would cost less than traditional braces, and at many practices, that is often the case. However, you should still expect to pay a few thousand out of pocket; cost estimates can vary widely, from $2500-3500 on average.

Given that these costs can vary so widely, it’s important to consult your orthodontic care provider and get a quote from them directly. Likewise, consider the other variables that could affect cost, including:

  • Location where you receive care
  • How much insurance coverage you’re eligible to receive
  • Any additional necessary treatments needed
  • Age of patient receiving care (children are usually eligible for more benefits)
  • Any affordable low monthly payment plans offered by orthodontic provider

Partial Braces: Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Shorter wear time than full braces
  • Usually less expensive than full braces
  • Slightly less prominent than full braces
  • May streamline the process of wearing full arch appliances (if needed)

Cons

  • Still somewhat prominent
  • May not address deeper, wider skeletal issues with the jaw or palate
  • Still somewhat costly out-of-pocket
  • May be more vulnerable to damage and breakage

How Do You Know If You Need Partial Braces?

If any of the above isolated occlusal issues from the first section apply to you, then you could potentially need partial braces.

For the best next steps, we recommend finding a licensed, experienced orthodontist and arranging a consultation. They can determine the best specific, personalized care for you or your child’s personal oral health needs, and set you on the right path today toward having a beautiful smile tomorrow.