There’s always that one friend or family member with perfectly straight teeth who never needed braces or Invisalign. It can make you wonder how that’s possible and what’s behind your own misaligned teeth or jaw.
Are crooked teeth genetic? Why do some people have crooked teeth while others don’t? Can misalignment be prevented? In this post, our Bothell, Monroe, Mill Creek, Everett and Juneau orthodontist will be diving into 8 common causes of crooked teeth and what you can do about it.
Are Crooked Teeth in Kids Always a Concern?
Before we cover the causes of crooked teeth, let’s talk about primary teeth. Parents sometimes panic when their child’s teeth aren’t straight, but crooked teeth in kids are not always indicative of a problem.
If your kiddo has crooked baby teeth, they won’t necessarily have crooked permanent teeth. This is especially true for spacing. Spaces or gaps between baby teeth can be a good thing since the permanent teeth are larger and will take up more room once they erupt. For this same reason, however, if your child has significantly crowded baby teeth, there is a chance that the permanent teeth will be crowded too.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends children have their first orthodontic evaluation by age 7. This might sound really young, but it’s for a good reason. At this age, Dr. Chan can see how your child’s bite is shaping up. We always treat kids conservatively at our practice and most won’t need treatment right away. They’ll simply come in occasionally over the years, so we can pinpoint the ideal time for them to start braces or Invisalign when they’re teenagers.
However, if Dr. Chan does identify red flags like abnormalities with jaw or facial growth or severe crowding, sometimes, intervening early will bring about the best results. In certain cases, he may recommend phase 1 orthodontic treatment, which is when we use orthodontic appliances to guide jaw and facial growth (dentofacial orthopedics) while a child is still developing.
The goal is to correct any skeletal abnormalities and make room for the permanent teeth to come in correctly. When early orthodontic treatment is necessary, it can make later treatment easier and prevent the need for corrective jaw surgery or the extraction of permanent teeth.
Other times, if we identify myofunctional or oral habits (i.e., thumb sucking, tongue thrust, mouth breathing, etc.), which we’ll talk about shortly, we can give parents guidance on correcting the habit. Stopping the habit might not prevent crooked teeth entirely, but it may ward off more serious malocclusion (improper bite) that would require extensive treatment.
What Causes Crooked Teeth?
So, what causes crooked teeth? Here are 8 common culprits:
For a lot of patients, crooked teeth are genetic. If one or both of your parents have crooked teeth, you could also have crooked teeth. The different types of malocclusion, such as an overbite, underbite, open bite and crossbite, while sometimes caused or worsened by oral habits, are often due to the size or position of the jaw. The size of our jaws and teeth are determined by genetics, but they often do not match each other. For example, we might get a smaller jaw from one side of the family, and then larger teeth from the other side, resulting in excess crowding. Or, if the opposite happens, and we get larger jaws with smaller teeth, then we will have excess spacing.
- Oral Habits
Repetitive oral habits like thumb sucking or prolonged pacifier use, especially if the habit continues once the permanent teeth start to erupt, can also be a cause of crooked teeth and a misaligned bite. As a child sucks on their thumb or pacifier, they exert pressure behind the top front teeth. This pressure can cause changes in their palate, as well as lead to protruding or overjet teeth and issues like an open bite.
- Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders
Orofacial (mouth and face) myofunctional (muscle function) disorders, such as mouth breathing and tongue posturing, are also common causes of crooked teeth. When kids have trouble breathing through their nose, whether due to an airway problem or even allergies, they may resort to mouth breathing. Chronic mouth breathing, in turn, can cause problems with their facial development, leading to crooked teeth and all types of malocclusion.
Tongue thrust, also called reverse swallowing or immature swallowing, is when the tongue hits against or protrudes in between the front teeth when a person swallows or talks. Although the thrusting movement is not enough to cause crooked teeth, the tongue will usually stay in a forward position when at rest too, which does cause problems. Inside of the mouth, the tongue puts pressure against the teeth while, from the outside, the facial muscles exert pressure. The combination can interfere with craniofacial development and cause crooked teeth and bite issues.
- The Early Loss of Primary Teeth
The primary teeth, or baby teeth, are important. It can seem like no big deal if a child loses a baby tooth early since it would have fallen out anyway, but that’s not the case. The baby teeth help with facial and speech development, aid in chewing and, most importantly, save space for the permanent teeth to come in. When a baby tooth is lost before it’s supposed to fall out, and a space maintainer isn’t placed, the remaining teeth will shift into the gap. The permanent tooth won’t be able to erupt correctly and, in extreme cases, can even become impacted (stuck under the tissue or bone), leading to crowding.
Sustaining a dental injury like an elbow to the mouth while playing sports can displace the teeth. If not treated, not only can the one tooth become crooked, but the other teeth may shift to accommodate the damaged tooth.
- Not Replacing Missing Permanent Teeth
If you lose a permanent tooth from periodontal disease, severe decay, an injury or a health condition, it’s essential to replace it with a dental implant or a restoration like a dental bridge. This is because, just like we talked about with a missing baby tooth, when you have a missing permanent tooth that isn’t replaced, the remaining teeth will shift into the space left behind. This will create changes in your bite and can ultimately cause crooked teeth.
Additionally, since the jawbone isn’t being stimulated anymore where the tooth is missing, the body will resorb the bone. This bone loss might also impact the alignment of your teeth and even the appearance of your face.
- Natural Changes With Age
As we get older, the bite often deepens and the teeth tend to shift naturally. This is why wearing a retainer after braces or Invisalign is the key to maintaining your results. If you forget to wear your retainer, over time, you will experience a relapse. Even if you didn’t need braces or Invisalign before, you might find that your teeth become crooked as you get older.
- Dental Work
Improperly fitting dental restorations like crowns, bridges and fillings can have a negative impact on your bite, causing pain and reduced function, as well as misaligned teeth.
Can Crooked Teeth be Prevented?
There’s no way to guarantee that you’ll have straight teeth and won’t need braces or Invisalign. Crooked teeth and a misaligned bite often have a genetic component and, if that’s the case, they can’t really be prevented.
That said, stopping oral habits such as thumb sucking and pacifier use and seeking out treatment for issues like tongue thrust/posture and mouth breathing, can prevent some bite issues or, at least, ensure they don’t continue to get worse.
Crowding can also be reduced or, sometimes, prevented, by opting for a dental space maintainer for a baby tooth that’s lost too early or by replacing a missing permanent tooth. Lastly, wearing a mouthguard when playing sports or doing any activity that could result in a blow to the face is good practice and will keep your teeth safe and where you want them.
Why Do Crooked Teeth Need to be Fixed?
There are times when slightly crooked teeth or a small gap can add charm to your smile and might not need to be corrected unless you feel self-conscious. But, the truth is, often, crooked teeth should be fixed because:
- Most importantly, you want a beautiful smile, and your crooked teeth bother you.
- Some of the teeth will bear more of the brunt when you chew, resulting in excessive or uneven wear of the enamel.
- They can make chewing difficult or painful when they are in certain wrong positions.
How to Fix Crooked Teeth
We talked about the causes of crooked teeth, whether they’re a concern in kids and why they should be fixed. Now, let’s go over how to fix crooked teeth. The first step is visiting Richard Chan Orthodontics for a complimentary consultation.
We’ll take any necessary diagnostic records, like photos and digital x-rays, and Dr. Chan will complete a thorough examination. He’ll use his findings to develop an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment recommendations.
Treatment options could include:
- Metal BracesMetal braces are the original way to fix crooked teeth and they’re still around today, because they’re effective. Modern metal braces are smaller and more streamlined than those of the past. They’re an excellent treatment option for kids, teens and adults, including those with severe orthodontic issues. They tend to be super popular with our younger patients who love getting to personalize their braces with colorful elastics. We have the common silver metal braces, and we also have gold braces for those who prefer them!
- Clear BracesClear braces, or ceramic braces, work in the same way as metal braces. However, the brackets are crafted from a durable ceramic material that blends in with your smile. They’re much less noticeable than their metal counterparts. Many of our adult braces patients prefer clear braces.
- Invisalign or Invisalign TeenIf you’re wondering how to fix crooked teeth without braces, Invisalign could be the solution. The system of clear, removable aligners is a convenient, comfortable treatment option. Dr. Chan designs your ideal smile on a virtual, 3D model of your mouth and the aligners are custom-made for you based on his specifications. As you make your way through your aligners, your smile will gradually take shape. The aligners are virtually invisible and since they’re removable, there are no food restrictions and oral hygiene is simple.Invisalign Teen works in the same way as Invisalign for adults. However, the aligners are designed especially for younger patients with features including eruption tabs to accommodate erupting teeth and free replacement aligners included in the system.
Connect with Dr. Richard Chan Today!
If you’re concerned about crooked teeth and you’re ready to find out which treatment option will bring out the best in your smile, we can help. Schedule a complimentary consultation at our Bothell, Monroe or Mill Creek, WA or Juneau, AK orthodontic offices to get started.