Childhood is filled with all kinds of awkward stages, not the least of which is a decade or so of “interesting” teeth configurations. As baby teeth fall out and adult teeth erupt, rare is the child who emerges from adolescence into adulthood with a shining, even, perfectly-spaced smile. While double rows of teeth are the norm for sharks, they can be very problematic if left untreated in humans. Crowded teeth, also known as a class 1 malocclusion, have a number of different causes but are ultimately treatable.
What causes crowded teeth?
Teeth crowding is a normal stage of dental development when baby teeth stubbornly hang on, refusing to make way for adult teeth. In a developmentally “ideal” mouth, baby teeth would gracefully make way on time for adult teeth to emerge in the space left behind by the baby teeth.
While this cause of crowded teeth is common, there are other causes of teeth crowding that may be more unusual, including:
- Extra teeth
- Birth defects
- Unusual direction of growth
- Excessive thumb or pacifier sucking
In some cases, crowded teeth are just a result of extra teeth. There isn’t necessarily a problem that needs to be solved. Some people simply grow more teeth than they need.
Certain birth defects
People born with cleft palate and any other associated birth defects that affect the bone structure of the mouth often suffer from teeth crowding. Tongue and lip tie may also lead to crowded teeth.
Underdevelopment in the mouth and jaw can be a major cause of crowded teeth. This can be a result of many things, including a genetic birth defect or poor nutrition (which can also be caused by lip and tongue tie).
Direction of growth
One cause that can result in more crowded teeth pain is teeth that come in at unusual angles. Wisdom teeth crowding is often a result of wisdom teeth that emerge angled towards their neighbors, forcing the teeth to crowd together in the front of the mouth.
Thumb sucking or excessive pacifier use
Any extended instances of thumb sucking or pacifier use will affect the natural development of the mouth. These two things may cause wisdom teeth crowding eventually, as the thumb and pacifier forces movement from the front of the mouth to the back.
Are there dangers to leaving crowded teeth untreated?
Unless you are part shark, it is important take steps to fix crowded teeth. Crowded teeth can cause problems well into adulthood, including:
- Uneven tooth wear
- Increased risk of TMJ/TMD
- Inability to maintain good oral health
- Problems with speech and confidence
Uneven tooth wear
Uneven tooth wear not only affects your bite but also affects your overall dental health. Teeth that are unevenly worn become susceptible to cracking, chipping, and breaking. These teeth then are prime candidates for:
Increased risk of temporal mandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD)
Any asymmetry in the mouth can cause stress on the temporal joint in the jaw. Combining this with any small amount of clenching can increase the possibility of developing TMJ, an incredibly painful (and damaging) disorder.
Inability to maintain good oral health
Crowded teeth make proper brushing and flossing more challenging. Since the American Dental Association estimates that only 40% of adults floss daily, this can bring that number down even more.
Problems with speech and a lack of confidence
In the most extreme cases, crowded teeth pain is not only physical. Too many teeth may begin to affect speech patterns, which can lead to a lack of confidence during social interactions.
How can I fix crowded teeth?
Regardless of the extent of the problem, crowded teeth can (and should) be fixed.
Crowded teeth treatment is most successful if started sooner rather than later, but all types of teeth crowding can be addressed with a variety of treatments.
Can braces fix crowded teeth?
Traditional braces have been a standard treatment option for crowded teeth. They are effective, affordable and, in most cases, the bulk of the cost is covered by insurance.
Braces for adults can be challenging in that they may impact a person’s level of confidence. They also require special attention to proper brushing and flossing.
Does Invisalign work for crowded teeth?
Invisalign for teeth crowding has replaced braces for most adults as a treatment option.
These clear aligners are just as effective for most types of crowding but are more subtle than a mouth full of metal. Aligners can be removed for brushing and flossing which makes dental hygiene easier.
Can cosmetic contouring fix teeth crowding?
Cosmetic contouring is the practice of using dental tools to change the shape of the teeth to fix crowded teeth.
This does remove tooth material and can make the teeth more susceptible to decay. For some patients with minor crowding, however, this treatment is a good option.
Are there surgical solutions?
Crowded teeth are most often treatable with minimally-invasive techniques, but in some cases surgery may be necessary.
In cases where the actual structure of your jaw needs to be changed in order to treat the crowding, your dentist might perform surgery to remove or reshape the bone. This is very rare, and most dentists will look to more conservative treatment options first.
Will I need to have teeth extracted?
In the past, tooth extraction (often in combination with braces) was the go-to treatment for teeth crowding. This has changed.
Most dentists prefer to leave as many teeth in the mouth as possible to avoid complications that can occur with extraction. In cases where there are actually extra teeth, tooth extraction might be the best way to go.
To decide which crowded teeth solutions work best for you, contact your Scottsdale cosmetic dentist today for a complete evaluation at one of our Phoenix area clinics.