Our self-consciousness about our crooked teeth can significantly contribute to low self-esteem. Some studies estimate that more than half of American adults obscure their mouths when laughing to hide their crooked teeth, while a 2017 study published in the Journal of Orthodontic Science found that crooked teeth proliferated self-esteem issues in adolescents. Likewise, a press release issued by the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) noted that 36% of Americans are unhappy with their teeth and that 78% perceive those with crooked teeth as unsuccessful. Thankfully, numerous treatment options exist for the various causes of crooked teeth. Below is everything you need to know about what causes crooked teeth and how fixing these problems will give you perfectly straight teeth!
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Are Crooked Teeth Normal?
Crooked teeth are more common in modern humans than in our ancestors. According to Peter Ungar, Ph.D., 90% of people have slightly crooked or misaligned teeth, while 75% lack the space in their mouths to adequately accommodate their wisdom teeth. Ungar suggests that ancient humans evolved to eat tough and fibrous food but that, as modern humans, we feed soft foods to our infants. As a result, the lack of appropriate stressors on baby teeth and a child’s mouth leads to stunted jaw growth and crooked or crowded teeth. Outside of there being too many teeth for our smaller jaws, Ungar notes that breathing difficulties and sleep apnea can also develop due to this change in diet.
What Causes Crooked Teeth?
The evolutionary cause of crooked teeth, whereby baby teeth and jaw muscles are not used enough, is one of many factors that can cause crooked or misaligned teeth. Due to the variation in the roots of this problem, understanding and addressing your unique set of underlying causes is essential to fix crooked teeth.
#1: Can a Pacifier Cause Crooked Teeth?
Pacifiers have a wonderful range of benefits for infants, helping them sleep and potentially mitigating the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However, pacifiers and thumb-sucking are known to lead to poor tooth alignment. A 2018 literature review published in the Progress in Orthodontics Journal found a significant link indicating that using pacifiers leads to misaligned bites and crooked teeth. Additionally, pacifiers or thumb-sucking are also known to cause periodontal disease and other oral health problems. Most medical professionals feel that the benefits of using a pacifier or engaging in thumb-sucking outweigh the potential risks if the habit is stopped once permanent teeth erupt.
#2: Are Crooked Teeth Hereditary?
Various genetic factors can contribute to crooked teeth, including teeth size, misaligned jaws, and malocclusions. A study published in the European Journal of Dentistry states that both environmental factors, such as excess wear on teeth, and genetic factors contribute to crooked teeth.
#3: Misaligned Teeth
Crooked teeth fall under the umbrella condition of misaligned teeth. Misaligned teeth occur when lower and upper teeth do not line up correctly. If left untreated, this condition can lead to other oral health complications, such as periodontal disease and tooth decay, and can negatively impact one’s chewing ability.
#4: Tongue Thrusting
Orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs), one type of which is called tongue thrusting, are a group of conditions typified by abnormal tongue position and movements. Over time, these disorders can cause crooked teeth since the tongue continually puts pressure on the back of the teeth and sometimes even the jaw, eventually changing their position. A common co-occurring disorder with tongue thrusting is mouth breathing. Breathing through one’s mouth, as opposed to the nose, is suboptimal for various reasons. The human nose is lined with cilia, tiny hairs that filter out potentially harmful objects such as pollution particles. Additionally, air breathed in through the mouth tends to be drier than the air breathed in through the nose, potentially leading to health problems. Mouth breathing also increases the chances of gum disease and tooth decay.
#5: Jaw Size
Not encouraging enough jaw strain in infants can lead to stunted jaw growth. This impaired growth can adversely affect jaw shape and size, meaning the mouth is too crowded once the baby teeth fall out. The result is often crooked permanent teeth.
#6: Misaligned Jaw
A misaligned jaw, also known as a malocclusion, occurs when the upper and lower jaws do not align correctly. A misaligned jaw can cause the teeth to overlap or be spaced too far apart, leading to a crooked appearance. In some cases, the misalignment may also cause the teeth to wear unevenly, further contributing to their crooked appearance.
#7: Facial Injury
While most people associate facial trauma with cracked teeth, it can cause crooked teeth, too. If a child experiences early baby tooth loss due to an injury, the remaining teeth may occupy abnormal positions in its absence, leading to permanently crooked teeth. Likewise, those who have lost a baby tooth early often find that the permanent tooth taking its place is crooked. Outside of tooth loss, blunt force trauma to the face can cause a jaw injury and crooked teeth through malocclusion.
#8: Poor Oral Hygiene
An individual who practices poor oral hygiene habits is at a greater risk of gum disease and decay, which have the potential to cause crooked teeth. Gum disease, if left untreated, can cause teeth to shift, thereby becoming crooked. Decay can weaken teeth, increasing the likelihood of cracked teeth. Due to shifting and abnormal positioning, individuals with missing or damaged teeth may experience crooked teeth.
What Happens if You Have Crooked Teeth?
While there are many causes of a crooked smile, crooked teeth themselves can lead to various problems outside of self-esteem issues.
#1: Can Crooked Teeth Cause TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint disorder is a malfunctioning of the joint that acts as the hinge on either side of your jaw — the TMJ. If it moves unusually or if its structure is damaged, the joint can cause immense pain and discomfort. Crooked teeth have the propensity to cause this condition since, due to the position of the teeth, the bite force throughout the mouth might be unbalanced, leading to an uneven strain of the jaw muscles.
#2: Can Crooked Teeth Cause Headaches?
Having straighter teeth is not only an aesthetic want, as crooked teeth can also be the impetus for chronic headaches. If the teeth are misaligned due to jaw crowding, or if they cause TMJ disorder, chronic headaches may occur.
#3: Can Crooked Teeth Affect Speech?
Crooked teeth can lead to speech difficulties since they are vital in producing sounds from the mouth. If they are misaligned, the teeth can affect the sounds necessary for clear speech.
#4: Can Crooked Teeth Affect the Shape of My Face?
Misplaced or misaligned teeth affect the shape of your face and skew the way others perceive your facial symmetry. Over time, crooked teeth can cause the jaw to absorb excessive wear in certain places, thereby affecting its shape and appearance.
What Are My Teeth Straightening Options?
Thankfully, there are many treatment options for those who want to mitigate oral health issues and enjoy the benefits of a perfect smile. The best treatment option for straightening teeth varies from individual to individual, and it is important to consult a dental professional to find the best route for you.
Traditional braces are amongst the earliest modern methods for teeth straightening. Braces work by using brackets, bands, and wires to create pressure to correct the alignment of teeth. Ceramic braces are an option for those who want something more discreet than traditional metal braces.
The most discreet orthodontic treatment available to patients is clear plastic aligners, such as Invisalign and SPARK. A patient undergoing SPARK or Invisalign treatment will receive various sets of clear aligners that shift the teeth slowly. These clear aligners work similarly to braces, but they are barely noticeable and, as such, are highly desired by patients.
Teeth Straightening Surgery
Teeth straightening surgery may be necessary for those with crooked teeth and jaw alignment concerns that non-invasive methods cannot remedy. However, this is an invasive procedure with an arduous recovery process and is subsequently considered a last resort when other methods are inappropriate.
Loudoun Orthodontics Can Help You Enjoy Perfectly Straight Teeth!
Contact Loudoun Orthodontics if you think orthodontic treatment is the solution to your dental woes. Whether you want to learn more about the benefits of our orthodontic services or have questions about the process, use our live chat or call (703) 858-0303 or send us a message through our contact us page to connect with our friendly staff today to book a complimentary orthodontic consultation! Our office, located at 19465 Deerfield Ave, Suite 304, Leesburg, VA 20176, proudly serves not just Loudoun County but also the Greater Washington DC area. So, if you’re residing in Ashburn, Lansdowne, or Sterling, and are looking for one of the best orthodontists in Virginia, don’t hesitate to visit our office! We also invite you to keep up with our blog to get answers to many of the frequently asked questions about maintaining sparkling oral health, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to become a part of our smiling community!