What Causes Crooked Teeth?

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If only adult teeth always grew in straight and evenly spaced without any help from an orthodontist. Unfortunately for many people, crooked teeth are a fact of life. Misaligned teeth can have a variety of causes, from genetics, malnutrition and oral habits to dental disease and poor dental hygiene. However, there are plenty of treatments available to fix teeth alignment and improve patients' self-confidence as well as their smiles.

Crooked Teeth Causes

How Modern Diets Cause Crowded Teeth

One theory behind the need for braces is the anthropological changes in the way we eat. The soft food in modern diets doesn't require much chewing, and a consequence of this is jaws that are too small to fit all adult teeth.

As Peter Ungar explains in Sapiens, thousands of years ago humans used to eat a much tougher diet. In response to all this hard work, jaw bones grew strong and large. Nowadays, the human diet is softer food and is often cut up before eating. People don't have to chew so much in order to eat, which means the jaws don't grow so large.

Teeth are made of dentin and enamel, and their size is dictated by genetics. Teeth evolved to fit the large jaws humans used to have, but now they erupt into the tight space of the modern jaw and they're forced out of alignment.

The Link Between Crooked Teeth and Poverty

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Campaign for Dental Health, the people with the highest risk of teeth alignment problems are those with limited access to dental care and proper nutrition. Food insecurity in childhood can lead to poor dental development and severe dental decay.

Aside from causing cosmetic problems, poverty often causes dental health risks. Insufficient access to dental insurance can mean dental visits are few and far between, and patients unable to afford regular cleaning appointments might go months or years before a provider spots the symptoms of gum disease or infection.

Other Crooked Teeth Causes

Genes play a role in crooked teeth, but sometimes it isn't fair to blame your ancestors for your crooked smile. Genetics can be responsible for tooth misalignment that's caused by crowding, differently sized or shaped lower and upper jaws, missing teeth, too many teeth and poor tooth or palate development. A parent might also pass on an overbite to their child, where the upper teeth extend too far over the lower teeth, or an underbite, when the lower teeth sit slightly forward from the upper teeth.

Yet sometimes external factors impact teeth development and alignment. These external causes include diseases, injuries that affect the jaw, broken teeth, tooth extractions and mouth breathing due to enlarged adenoids or other maxillofacial conditions. What's more, thumb sucking or extended pacifier use may also cause crooked teeth.

How Orthodontists Fix Misaligned Teeth

For children whose jaws are still growing, a dentist may recommend orthodontic treatment to straighten teeth and correct misaligned bites. Teeth and jaws aren't stuck in one position. With constant pressure from braces and other orthodontic equipment like palatal expanders and lingual bars, the teeth and jaws can slowly change alignment. Upper jaws can be made to expand with the proper treatment by an orthodontist.

If teeth are very crooked, the orthodontist may begin treatment by using a palatal expander to widen the upper jaw and a lingual bar to open out the lower jaw, if needed. The next stage is fitting the patient for braces. Through regular adjustments, braces gradually correct the position of the teeth. Finally, after removing the braces, the orthodontist fits a retainer that the patient wears to maintain the teeth in their new positions.

Treatment Concerns

Some patients worry about how their braces will look, but modern braces aren't as noticeable as they used to be, and children and teens can have fun choosing from colorful rubber ligatures . Alternatively, patients who feel too self-conscious to wear regular braces can opt for lingual braces or aligners that are barely noticeable. Talk with an orthodontist about the best choice for you or your child's situation.

As well as knocking self-confidence, teeth that aren't perfectly aligned may cause jaw joint pain and may interfere with eating and speaking. If your teeth are crooked, there are plenty of options open to you. Affordable options are available for everything from a run-of-the-mill cleaning to a big decision like braces. Speak to your dentist about your concerns and discover how you can improve your smile.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Top Oral Care Tips Related to ADULT ORTHODONTICS

  • Flossing – creating a flossing routine is important during orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists and hygienists may recommend interdental brushes or floss threaders to make getting in between teeth easier.

  • Brushing routine – using fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush are ideal for cleaning teeth with braces. Begin brushing at a 45-degree angle at the gum line using small circular motions. Then place the toothbrush on top of the brackets, angling down to brush on top of each bracket. Finally, reposition the brush to brush the bottom of the bracket as well as the wire, angling the toothbrush up.

  • Fluoride mouthwash – after brushing and flossing, rinse with a fluoride mouthwash to help prevent cavities and white spots.

  • Mouthguards – wear a mouthguard if you play sports. Mouthguards can protect your cheeks and lips from serious cuts and can prevent damage to your braces or orthodontic appliance if you fall down or are hit in the face.