The most common alternatives to orthodontic braces for straightening crooked teeth are removable aligners and retainers and dental contouring. These alternatives may not be suitable if the teeth are severely misaligned.
Traditional metal braces are very effective in straightening teeth by applying low-level pressure to the teeth over time. Drawbacks to metal braces include their appearance, their initial discomfort, and difficulty with eating and oral hygiene. Newer braces composed of clear plastics or ceramics avoid the "metal mouth" look, but are more expensive and slightly less effective.
Aligners work on the same principle as braces but are removable and much less visible. Each aligner is part of a custom-made set that, when used in sequence, gradually pushes the teeth to the correct positions. Aligners are easy to clean and don't interfere with a patient's dental hygiene, but can be lost and are more expensive than braces. They also aren't as effective as braces at correcting severely overcrowded or rotated teeth or at correcting bite problems. Retainers, which are similar to aligners but come as a single appliance, are often used to keep corrected teeth from reverting to their former places, but can sometimes be used to correct mild orthodontic problems.
Porcelain veneers that are bonded to teeth to improve their appearance are often used in conjunction with contouring, or reshaping teeth by shaving off small amounts of enamel. Veneers and contouring can improve the appearance of stained or chipped teeth, but are suitable for correcting only slight misalignments.