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What Causes Crooked Teeth?

Crooked teeth can decrease your confidence and increase oral health problems. Learn why they happen and what you can do to fix them.

Last updated on

December 21, 2023

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What Causes Crooked Teeth?

There are a few things on Earth that seem to unite pretty much everyone. Most people love payday, some ice cream on a hot day, or some snuggles from a puppy. But most people also love having straight, picture-perfect teeth.

The issue is that teeth can shift and move for a number of different reasons, making your chompers look a little bit worse for wear. And while there are ways to fix crooked teeth, it’s a lot easier to avoid that in the first place.

What exactly causes crooked teeth? What problems can arise from having shifted teeth, and what options are there as far as treatment? Keep reading for information on maintaining or achieving your best smile.

What Makes Teeth Shift?

Some people go their entire lives without worrying about their teeth shifting out of place. But for some of the population, teeth can become less aesthetically pleasing by moving around the gum line.

There are various reasons why teeth can become crooked, both at a young age or an older age. Here are some of the most common:

Age

Baby teeth can commonly grow in looking slightly crooked because they are too small to fit into the gum space allocated to them. While this doesn’t always mean that their permanent teeth will be crooked, this can sometimes cause overcrowding, possibly leading to crooked teeth into adulthood.

Additionally, suppose trauma or a disease like tooth decay causes a baby tooth to fall out sooner than it naturally would. In that case, it might cause the permanent teeth that follow to grow out slightly slanted rather than perfectly aligned as to be expected.

Jaw Size

Evolution is normally meant to help us, but in the case of crooked teeth, Evolution is meant to help us, but in the case of crooked teeth, we look to our early ancestors. Early humans needed large jaws and strong teeth to be able to cut through tough meats and raw foods. But in the modern day, we’ve developed a diet of cooked foods which are often softer and easier to chew.

This means that we’ve evolved to not necessarily need as large of a jaw. While we no longer need larger jaws, our collective ability to grow in our teeth has become a bit more challenging. With less space in the gums comes an inability for certain teeth, especially wisdom teeth, to grow in without impacting those around them.

Thumb Sucking or Pacifier Use

Myofunctional habits are repetitive behaviors that can alter the functions of the mouth or face. These are things like sucking your thumb, using a pacifier, mouth breathing, or tongue thrusting (which occurs when the tongue presses too far forward in the mouth). These are common in children and can move teeth out of their alignment.

Genetics

Sometimes, the appearance of your teeth is fully related to your genetics and heredity. If one or both of your parents have crowded teeth, then you are at a greater risk of also developing crooked teeth. You could even inherit things like underbites, overbites, or crossbites from the people in your family.

Jaw Alignment

In a normal jaw, your upper teeth sit slightly over your lower teeth when you bite down, with the points of the upper molars fitting into the grooves of the molars on the lower jaw. When this alignment is out of place, it’s called malocclusion.

Underbites and overbites are the most common. If you have an underbite, your lower teeth jut out in front of your upper teeth. With an overbite, it’s vice versa: the upper teeth extend too far out in front of the lower teeth. Both can cause teeth to grow in crooked or become crooked.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Tooth decay, or cavities, are more than a possibly pricey dentist visit. This oral health issue can lead to gingivitis (gum disease) and other conditions affecting oral health or contributing to crooked teeth. Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day and visit your dentist for regular check-ups and routine cleanings twice a year.

Traumatic Injury

Sometimes, teeth can become crooked because of an external force that physically moves them out of place. Sports injuries or contact injuries can both knock teeth completely loose or just move them out of their normal positioning.

Poor Diet

Especially at a young age, a poor diet can contribute to tooth decay and poor development of adult teeth over time. This includes low levels of calcium and other vitamins that are imperative for proper tooth development with age.

Can Crooked Teeth Affect Overall Dental Health?

Outside of the fact that crooked teeth can make you feel less confident in your smile, shifted teeth can also cause several other dental health problems that range in severity.

It Can Cause Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease (gum disease) is caused by inflammation and infection in the gums. This can happen when oral health isn’t taken care of. Crooked teeth can lessen the gap between teeth and make it challenging to clean between the teeth where they meet the gum line.

This can cause gingivitis and discomfort in the gums, which can progress toward more serious complications. Additionally, it could potentially increase the risk of cavities and other oral diseases.

It Can Lead To Speech Difficulties

The alignment of your teeth plays a major role in your ability to properly pronounce words and form sentences. If teeth are misaligned, it can affect the way you articulate sound and cause speech impediments, lisps, and other speech problems.

It Can Affect Chewing and Digestion

Crooked teeth can make it harder to chew your food in a natural, functional way. This can make it harder to digest food while also making it a little bit unsafe in terms of swallowing food.

It Can Lead To Excessive Wear and Tear

When your teeth do not line up with the other jaw in the proper way, it can put undue stress and tension on certain ones. This can lead to things like worn enamel (the outer protective part of your teeth), cracked teeth, jaw strain, TMJ, and even chronic headaches.

How To Straighten Crooked Teeth

Many treatment options exist for straightening and aligning your teeth back to their former glory.

Here are a few of the most popular and commonly used:

Braces

Braces are one of the most common orthodontic treatment methods for restoring the appearance of your smile. Fixed metal braces are the most popular, which attach to the front teeth with brackets, bands, and a flexible wire.

Over time, an orthodontist tightens these wires physically pull teeth into the correct positions. Braces can be customized with different colors based on your personal preferences, and they are now a lot more comfortable than they ever used to be.

For people who don’t like the look of traditional metal braces, lingual braces are an option that adheres to the surface side of your teeth that faces your tongue. They are much more expensive and aren’t recommended for severe cases of malocclusion, but they might be a good option if you’re not thrilled by the look of braces.

Invisible Aligners

Another option to get better alignment without the look of braces is to go with invisible aligners. These are meant to be worn by teenagers and adults only and should not be used in children.

These plastic, clear aligners are custom fit for your mouth. You’ll wear them sort of like a retainer, as it fits over each tooth like a mouth guard. Every two weeks or so, you’ll swap out your current aligner for a new one, with each aligner getting closer and closer to straight teeth.

These are also not recommended for people with severely crooked teeth, but these are often more desirable compared to braces because of their flexibility to be removed when eating or drinking. This means you don’t need to stop chewing gum or eating certain foods like you do with braces.

However, that’s a disadvantage for the same reason: Many people take out their aligners too often, lose their aligners, or forget to wear them, hindering their progress.

Surgery

Typically a last resort for severe cases of tooth alignment issues, teeth straightening surgical procedures can be used to reposition the bone and gums to hold teeth in place. These can sometimes be used before getting braces to speed up the braces process.

How Much Does Teeth Straightening Cost?

The cost of straightening your teeth varies based on a few factors. Firstly, the type of procedure you get is a major factor. Traditional braces are often incredibly expensive, but lingual braces sometimes cost double that of traditional braces. Invisible aligner costs can vary as much as the price of braces, but you can expect some sticker shock either way.

Additionally, whatever type of insurance you have can affect your out-of-pocket costs. Straightening your teeth is often considered a cosmetic procedure that only serves to enhance your appearance. Since it doesn’t prevent or treat disease (according to many insurance companies), you will likely not be able to get these procedures covered. 

That leaves you with a hefty price tag and no assistance, despite the money you pour into insurance each month (if you’re part of the US-based population that has dental insurance since 77 million Americans don’t have it). 

But you shouldn’t have to pay such crazy amounts to get the dental care you want or need. Flossy is a pay-as-you-go service where you only pay for the services you get at up to 50% off the national average. No monthly premiums, no annual dues, and no hidden fees like insurance — the price you see is the price you pay.

From orthodontic teeth straightening to root canals and cleanings, don’t let price be a barrier between you and the perfect smile. Schedule a visit with a Flossy dentist near you to make moves toward your brightest smile.

In Conclusion

Crooked teeth can be caused by a wide number of different factors, including thumb sucking, physical trauma, age, and genetics. Crooked teeth may affect the way you eat and speak. While misaligned teeth can possibly increase your risk of gum disease, it’s mostly a cosmetic issue that affects self-esteem.

Either way, you don’t need to overpay to get braces, invisible aligners, or other types of treatments for your misalignment. Download the Flossy App to find something to smile about — like going to the dentist!

Sources:

The toll of shrinking jaws on human health | Stanford News

Genes Are Key to Oral Health & Beyond | National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

Periodontal Disease | Oral Health Conditions | Division of Oral Health | CDC.

TMJ disorders - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

Habits | The Academy of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy

What are misaligned teeth and jaws? - InformedHealth.org | NCBI Bookshelf

New Report: 77 Million Adults Do Not Have Dental Insurance | Business Wire

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