A dentist is showing teeth x-ray to his patient

What Causes Crooked Teeth?

Every human that has ever lived has been different from the rest. And the differences between us are what makes being human interesting. You are one of a kind. That even manifests in how your teeth come in. Some teeth are bigger, some are smaller, some have different shapes, some are more aligned, and often teeth are even crooked. But what causes some teeth to be misaligned? Read on to know the various reasons your teeth may be crooked, if any oral health problems could arise as a result, and what options are available for you to straighten them so you can feel confident about your smile.

What Causes Crooked Teeth?

Misaligned teeth can have a variety of causes, including:

  • Genetics
    Crooked teeth can be genetic. Crowding, jaw size, jaw shape, having too many teeth (hyperdontia), overbites, underbites, and poor tooth or palate development are some of the conditions that can be passed down in your family.
  • Poor Oral Hygiene
    If you don't practise good oral hygiene, you could develop the early stages of gum problems. According to the Oral Hygienists Association of South Africa (OHASA), 3 out of 4 adults over the age of 35 years suffer from gum problems. Left untreated, gum problems can develop into periodontitis. This more severe form of gum problems can cause your teeth to loosen, shift, or even fall out.
  • Early baby tooth loss
    If you lost a baby tooth early as a child, it could have allowed other teeth to shift into the area of loss, crowding the area where a permanent tooth would eventually come in.
  • Thumb sucking
    If you were in the habit of sucking on your thumb (or toys, etc.) when you were a child, that could be a reason you have crooked teeth.
  • Tongue thrusting
    When you swallow, your tongue is supposed to press against the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth. If you press your tongue on your teeth instead, that's called tongue thrusting. Over time, this habit can result in crooked teeth.
  • Malnutrition
    Getting enough nutrients in your diet is important for the health and development of your body's muscles, bones, and tissue. If your body doesn't get what it needs, this could result in crooked teeth, among other potential health issues.
  • Mouth breathing
    Mouth breathing in children may have an impact on tooth alignment.
  • Trauma
    Injuries from sports and other accidents could cause your teeth to be misaligned.

What Are The Oral Health Benefits of Straight Teeth?

When your teeth are aligned, they tend to harbour fewer germs, because they're easier for you to clean. Better oral hygiene will decrease your risk of tooth cavities and periodontal problems, and your gums may support your teeth better when they aren't overlapping. You could also have a decreased risk of chipping, breaking, or wearing away your teeth when they fit together correctly. You may even experience less stress on your jaw from misaligned teeth.

How Do Orthodontists Fix Misaligned Teeth?

Your bones have two kinds of cells that do all the work to remodel your skeleton as needed. Osteoclasts break down old bone and deliver it into your bloodstream (resorption), while osteoblasts build your bone where it needs to be reinforced (ossification). When you're a child, you create bone faster, and the process slows as you age. When you were in your first year of life, almost 100% of your skeleton was replaced, and as an adult, your bones remodel themselves at a rate of about 10% per year.

When orthodontists realign your teeth with the following devices, resorption and ossification are what allows for the movement and strengthening of your teeth in a new position.

  • Braces
    You're probably familiar with the wires, metal brackets and rubber bands that make up traditional orthodontic hardware. Braces are still a popular choice for straightening teeth, because they work. However, their aesthetic, the fact that they make practising good oral hygiene more complicated, and require visiting the orthodontist every six weeks for adjustments has many people opting for clear aligners.
  • Clear Aligners
    Clear aligners are discreet, removable alternatives to metal braces. When you get custom-made, clear plastic aligners, you normally receive several months' worth in advance. You can also change them out at regular intervals to help shift your teeth into the proper position. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, each set of aligners is usually worn for 1-3 weeks. The entire series of aligners could take up to nine months or longer, depending on the amount of alignment needed.

    It is important to note that the American Dental Association discourages getting clear aligners directly from manufacturers in what's being called Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Orthodontics. Moving teeth is a medical procedure that should be done with the supervision of a licensed professional.
  • Retainer
    If your teeth are only slightly crooked due to minor overcrowding, you may be able to get them aligned using a retainer. Retainers are generally used to maintain the alignment of teeth after you wear braces, but for small adjustments, a retainer may be able to do the trick.
  • Palatal expander
    If your child's mouth is too small for their future adult teeth, their orthodontist may insert a palatal expander to widen the arch of their upper teeth. The expander will be fastened to your child's upper molars using dental cement. Over time, the orthodontist will use a special key during visits, placing gradual pressure on the upper jaw's left and right halves. This causes extra bone to grow between the two halves of the jaw, increasing the width of your child's mouth so their teeth can shift into the proper position. Expanders are mostly invisible, but your child may experience mild discomfort each time their expander is adjusted.

There's a long list of famous and highly successful people who are considered beautiful or eccentric because of their misaligned teeth. But even if you like the unique aesthetic that comes with your crooked teeth, it's important to note that they could cause problems for your oral health. Speak with your dental professional, and they will help you determine whether any of the above straightening options are right for you. Whatever you decide, we hope it makes you smile.

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