Having crooked teeth is a common problem, affecting nearly half of the world’s population. While it’s most often thought of first as a cosmetic issue, malocclusion isn’t just something that can negatively affect a person’s appearance. Crooked teeth can also make it difficult to chew, swallow, or even speak properly.
The underlying causes for crowding, overbites, underbites, misaligned bites, and other orthodontic problems vary from person to person. Is it possible to prevent crooked teeth in the first place? Unfortunately, some of the factors that cause crooked teeth, like genetics, are beyond an individual’s control. However, some habits and behaviors also contribute to malocclusion, so it isn’t all up to chance. Fortunately, no matter what the reason for developing crooked teeth, there are plenty of options for straightening them.
What Causes Crooked Teeth
In a perfect bite, both upper and lower teeth are aligned and the upper teeth fit just over the lower, with the molars interlocking. It’s relatively rare for someone to have this ideal bite without any orthodontic intervention whatsoever—however, many misalignment issues are minor enough not to need treatment. When larger problems arise, such as mismatches between the size and/or positions of the upper and lower jaws, teeth that aren’t the right size for the jaw, or rotated teeth, they can be the result of many factors.
One common cause is genetics. Do crooked teeth run in your family? If so, the chances of you having crooked teeth as well go up. Some people may naturally have less than the typical number of adult teeth, or have extra teeth. When this is the case, the resulting spaces or overcrowding can move the other teeth out of optimal positioning. It’s also possible to inherit different dental traits from each parent (small jaw from one and large teeth from the other, for example) in a combination that creates problems.
Birth defects can also contribute to developing crooked teeth later. Cleft palate and cleft lip, which occur when the tissues of the roof of the mouth or of the upper lip do not fully form before birth, are both associated with an increased risk of developing crooked teeth. Obviously, these types of issues are not anything a patient has any control over, but they are good reasons to consult an orthodontist early in a child’s life. Early detection can make it possible to address certain developing orthodontic problems with Phase I treatment, avoiding more costly and difficult procedures later in life.
Certain habits and behaviors are known to contribute to malocclusion. Thumb sucking or the extended use of a pacifier or bottle may significantly affect tooth formation; these are common causes of misalignment. Tongue thrusting—when the tongue pushes against the upper teeth every time a person swallows—can also cause generalized spacing over time. Signs that this might be occurring include an open bite (where the upper and lower teeth never join together even when the bite is closed), mouth breathing, the tongue being visible between the teeth, a lisp, and trouble chewing and swallowing. Correcting poor habits when they are first recognized, if possible, can reduce the chances of tooth misalignment occurring—yet another reason to consult an orthodontist at the recommended age of 7.
Poor dental care is another factor that can negatively affect tooth alignment. When teeth are missing due to decay, the remaining teeth will shift into the resulting gaps. Poorly fitted dental crowns and fillings may also result in misalignments. This is another reason that proper brushing and flossing should be a regular part of everybody’s personal hygiene routine.
Fixing Crooked Teeth
With more orthodontic treatment options available than ever before, nobody needs to live with the discomfort and self-consciousness that comes with having crooked teeth. Patients now have a variety of choices for fixing alignment problems of all kinds. In addition to traditional braces, clear aligners and lingual braces offer new features that allow patients to choose effective treatment based on their individual needs. At B Orthodontics, we can create a personalized plan with the convenience, comfort, and discretion you want to achieve the healthy, beautiful smile of your dreams. To schedule your initial consultation, contact us here today.