When a patient presents with misaligned teeth and is seeking a prosthetic answer to their clinical situation (instant orthodontics with no other structural, functional, or esthetic problem), it is important to consider presenting orthodontic treatment as a first step in the restorative process.

Orthodontic treatment allows for changes in tooth position, bone, facial gingival tissue and papillae. Horizontally moving teeth can change tooth position and arrangement. Tooth proportion changes can be planned which may require opening or closing interdental spaces. By vertically moving teeth, the tooth position, gingival level and papillae heights can be altered. Proclining or retroclining teeth can impact the occlusion and possibly create a situation where less tooth reduction is necessary if restorations are planned.

The patient may have already excluded orthodontics as a treatment option, but including this alternative is an important part of your comprehensive treatment planning and informed consent process. There can be significant limitations to the esthetic, structural, or functional outcome when correction of misaligned teeth is performed only with restorative treatment. Potential limitations in the outcome include those related to:

  • Tooth position
  • Tooth arrangement
  • Tooth proportion
  • Gingival levels
  • Papilla heights

The outcomes that are most predictable are when minor tooth arrangement, rotation, or space closure changes are desired. The more crowded the dentition, the narrower the restorations will be to straighten the tooth alignment. This may negatively impact the tooth proportion.

Without orthodontic movement of the teeth, there may also be compromises in papillae height. The closer together the roots, the shorter the papilla will be and the longer the interdental contact. The most significant consequence of restoring teeth without prior orthodontic alignment is the amount of tooth reduction that may be needed to accomplish the goals of the case. The aspects of the tooth that will most likely be impacted are:

  • Incisal edge reduction
  • Palatal/lingual extension may require a crown preparation rather than a veneer
  • Labial surface in the incisal third may need to be more extensively prepared
  • Labial surface in the gingival third may need to be more extensively prepared
  • Interdental finish line location may need to be positioned more palatally
  • Interproximal gingival finish line may need to be positioned deeper intracervically

The most appropriate time to consider the correction of misaligned teeth through restorative therapy is when the patient has structural, functional, or other esthetic indications, and the teeth will require restorations to correct the problem.


Commenter's Profile Image Kenton Ross
July 24th, 2013
I find I need to have this conversation quite often with patients. Is there a particular digital suite video that you think best encapsulates these key factors in terms patients easily understand? Perhaps links to pt ed videos following articles like this would be a good upgrade. Great article!
Commenter's Profile Image Gary DeWood
July 24th, 2013
Kenton, thanks for your comment. A video discussion about how to speak specifically to patients about this doesn't come immediately to mind - sorry. The conversations usually revolve around 2 things - the length of time needed for the treatment and the patient's age ("I'm too old for braces"). We (Bob, Frank, Gregg, Steve, and me) try to lead the discussion to the cost differential (Ortho is often a much smaller investment) and the health compromise (teeth in the wrong position will never be as homeostatically stable as those positioned correctly). If you are asking about patient ed videos on this my first thought is that each case is so different that it's hard to lump them together. It depends on whether the case is an ortho only case, an ortho AND restorative case, or an ortho OR restorative case. I'll toss that idea into our production hopper and see if we can come up with something that will help patients see the choice in a full light. Thanks for asking!