A number of factors may affect the size and position of your teeth and jaws. Teeth that are crowded, crooked, or that stick out (protruding teeth) can make you unhappy with the way you look. Teeth that do not line up the right way (misaligned teeth) affect your bite. This can make it hard to chew some foods and it may cause some teeth to wear down. It can also cause muscle tension and pain. Thankfully, whatever the cause of your crooked teeth, there is a solution. Braces are a very effective way to straighten wayward teeth. And, if you wear your retainers regularly, your teeth should stay straight for many, many years. You’ll also be pleased to hear that braces now come in discreet forms such as Invisalign and lingual braces.
Symptoms of crooked teeth
Crooked or crowded teeth can be mild or severe. It can be quite obvious to see from your smile, or not as noticeable if it affects teeth towards the back of your jaw. Malalignment can impact on the function of your teeth and mouth, so you can experience other symptoms too.
Why are teeth crooked?
There is one question a parent often asks when they enter an orthodontic clinic: ‘what are my child’s teeth crooked?’. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Teeth can develop incorrectly for a number of reasons, including genetic influences, jaw growth deformities, patient habits, obstructed airways/ chronic mouth breathing and other serious oral health conditions.
While some of these factors are beyond our control and braces or other types of orthodontic treatment may be necessary to correct crooked teeth, there are a few things that parents can look out for to ensure their children are growing up with healthy and confident smiles.
Genetics and crooked teeth
When crowding occurs due to extra teeth, abnormally large teeth or small jaws, genetics often plays a significant role. When we consider that we get 50% of our genetic makeup from one parent and 50% from the other, it is little wonder that sometimes the teeth and jaws do not match correctly.
Many orthodontic problems such as underbites, overbites, and crooked teeth are heavily influenced by genetics and in most cases can’t be avoided, but can be corrected. More serious dental and facial growth problems such as an upper jaw that is growing much slower than the lower jaw will warrant early orthodontic intervention. These problems should be assessed by a specialist Orthodontist by the age of 7-8 years. Minor bite problems and dental crowding should also be assessed early but can often be monitored for a few years before being treated easily and predictably as one phase of treatment during the pubertal growth spurt years.
Taking care of baby teeth
Baby teeth act as space maintainers for future adult teeth. If a child loses a baby tooth too early, the adjacent teeth can drift into the empty space, reducing the space available later when the adult tooth is ready to erupt. Therefore, taking good care of baby teeth is vital if you want to prevent crowding in the adult teeth.
If a baby tooth is lost due to trauma or extracted due to tooth decay or infection, it is important that you see an orthodontist for advice and possibly the placement of a space maintainer to prevent the loss of space.
Thumb and finger sucking
A thumb sucking habit after the front teeth have erupted can also impact a child’s teeth – pushing the front teeth forward or possibly creating an open-bite. It’s important to note that there are usually no ill-effects from thumb sucking in early childhood and most children naturally give up the habit somewhere between 2-4 years of age.
However, if thumb sucking continues past the age of 6 or 7 (when adult teeth are coming through) there can be a misalignment of front teeth and narrowing of the upper jaw which may require jaw expansion plates and braces. It’s therefore very important to break a thumb-sucking habit while the child is still young.
Does nail-biting cause crooked teeth?
Nail-biting is one of the most common nervous habits that can be triggered by stress, excitement or boredom. What you might not know is that this can cause permanent damage to your teeth, wearing down your tooth enamel which can lead to a variety of dental issues, including crooked teeth. If you are wearing braces, nail biting puts additional pressure on the brackets, making them bend or break which will result in unscheduled trips to the orthodontist, compromising your overall treatment plan so you may need to wear your braces for a longer period of time.
Any problems with your gums such as injury or disease can eventually impact on your teeth. Gum disease can cause teeth to become loose and change their alignment as well as your bite.
Time can also take its toll on the position of your teeth. As we age our teeth can have an unfortunate tendency to drift forward and become more crowded. Contrary to popular belief your wisdom teeth are not to blame. The real cause is your jaw bone, which looses density over the years and changes shape, encouraging teeth to crowd towards the front of your mouth.
If you suffer an injury to your face the force could cause your teeth to move and become misaligned. A trauma could also affect the position of your jaw or damage your gums, which in turn could cause your teeth to shift. To reduce the risk of a trauma to your teeth, dentists advise patients to wear a gumshield during contact sports such as hockey and rugby.
Not wearing your retainer
Amongst orthodontic patients, the biggest cause of reoccurring crowding (or orthodontic relapse) is undoubtedly the absence of retainers. For as long as you want your teeth to stay straight after wearing braces, you will need to follow your orthodontists instructions and wear your fixed and/or removable retainer.
Are Crooked Teeth Bad for You?
Having crooked teeth may seem primarily like a cosmetic problem, but in reality, whether they are caused by genetics or by our own actions, teeth that are not properly aligned can cause a myriad of problems. For example, the jaw is designed to have teeth that, when the jaw is closed, align against each other fairly well. This aids chewing, keeps teeth healthy, and encourages proper dental health.
However, if you have some teeth that are out of alignment, they can cause problems, especially in your jaw joint and in your mouth’s overall health. Because crowded teeth can catch and hide particles of food, they are more likely to get cavities and eventually, decay and cause further problems with the gums. They can even make it difficult to chew food properly or cause you to break a tooth.
Crooked teeth can affect the health of your teeth, how your jaw works and can even affect your posture and balance. Some symptoms that may be present include:
- Plaque build up
- Tooth decay and gum disease
- An overbite or underbite
- Jaw painand headaches
treat crooked teeth
Often you will seek orthodontic treatment to straighten your teeth and enhance your smile. However other reasons include the teeth becoming difficult to clean and keep healthy. A crowed mouth can contribute to oral conditions causing tooth decay, and gum disease. Thankfully, whatever the cause of your crooked teeth, there is a solution.
The most common treatment for crooked teeth is, undoubtedly, braces. They are a tried and true method, and by far the most popular and effective for the widest range of people. Because braces can be customized to help even those with severe misalignments, they are still the most popular choice.
Another treatment for crooked teeth is called “Invisalign.” This is a series of plastic retainers or trays, which gradually move the teeth to the proper alignment. While they are not ideal for serious problems, that can help to adjust some crooked teeth.
Implant or surgery(h3)
For those that are missing teeth or have large gaps between teeth that are caused by muscles or excess gum tissue, an implant or a surgery to remove extra tissue may be helpful.
How to Prevent Crooked Teeth
While the factors that have the most effect on whether or not teeth are crooked fall into the genetic category, there are some measures that can be taken to prevent some crooked teeth. For example, if you have a child that is losing their baby teeth and growing in adult teeth, making sure that they are not sucking their thumbs can help to prevent some misalignments.
In that same vein, ensuring that talking and chewing are progressing properly can help to prevent the exacerbation of genetic crookedness. As early as is possible, have an x-ray of the teeth and see if the dentist or orthodontist can provide any predictions about problem areas that should be watched.
The benefits of early orthodontic treatment
While the temptation may be to wait until your child is in their teen years to begin orthodontic treatment, early child orthodontic treatment can be beneficial in many cases. The use of spacers can help stop overcrowding by ensuring there is enough space in the mouth for new teeth, while a plate can help guide jaw growth during their formative years. This will mean that less extensive treatment is required at a later date to correct bite and jaw alignment.
How much does it cost to treat crooked teeth?
The cost of straightening crooked teeth will vary depending on your teeth and the treatment plan to align them. Contributing factors can include treatment goals, length of treatment and your current teeth structure. Your dentist or orthodontist will recommend a treatment option best suited to you and give you an estimate of the price and payment options during your consultation visit.
Do braces hurt?
It doesn’t hurt to fit braces to your teeth. You may experience discomfort of pressure for the few days that follow each adjustment appointment. This is completely normal and is a sign that the braces are moving your teeth into their straighter position. Your mouth will soon adjust to the braces and the symptoms should improve. Your dentist or orthodontist specialist can advise you about ways to manage getting used to wearing braces.
Can adults have braces?
Absolutely! They are definitely not just for young teenagers. There are several ways that you can straighten your crooked teeth, including traditional braces or even Invisalign which uses clear, comfortable and removable aligners to gradually move your teeth. Talk to your dentist or orthodontist for the advice on ways to straighten your teeth.