Updated on February 16, 2024
9 min read

Crowded Teeth: Causes, Treatment & Risks

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What is Dental Crowding (Crowded Teeth)?

Crowded teeth happen when the mouth lacks space for permanent teeth to grow in straight. This can also be called “overcrowding” or “dental crowding.”

Individuals experiencing this form of malocclusion (misalignment) have crooked teeth overlapping.

crowded teeth scaled 1

Overcrowding can be mild, moderate, or severe. A person’s jaw size and how many teeth they have determines the severity.

  • Mild Crowding — When one anterior tooth in the upper or lower jaw is slightly rotated
  • Moderate Crowding — When two to three anterior teeth overlap in the upper or lower jaw
  • Severe Crowding — When most anterior teeth in the upper or lower jaw overlap

Summary

Crowded teeth can be mild, moderate, or severe. This form of misalignment occurs when some teeth overlap in the mouth.

Straighten your teeth at a fraction of the cost. Learn about clear aligners.

What Causes Crowded Teeth?

The cause of dental crowding can be due to a variety of factors, including:

  • Genetic factors, such as teeth larger than the jaw or smaller, can contribute to dental crowding
  • If you lose a primary tooth too early, other teeth can move into the empty space
  • If permanent teeth don’t erupt properly due to over-retained baby teeth

Summary

The primary causes of teeth crowding include teeth larger than the jaw or a jaw that is too small. Losing baby teeth too early can also cause dental crowding.

Meet the Expert

There are different treatments available for crowded teeth. Each treatment has its pros and cons. Ideal candidates for each treatment also vary depending on the severity of the crowding and individual preferences.

To help us learn more about the various treatments for crowded teeth, we sought the expertise of the following experts:

Mary Qian, DMD

Dr. Mary Qian, DMD received her dental degree from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston, MA. She currently has her own practice in Palo Alto, California. 

Dr. Joyce Kahng

Dr. Joyce Kahng owns and operates Orange + Magnolia Dental Studio. She graduated from dental school when she was 23 and currently focuses her practice on Aesthetic and Restorative Dentistry.

Dr. Jennifer Silver

Dr. Silver currently practices at Macleod Trail Dental Clinic in Calgary, Alberta. She graduated with a Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

How to Fix Crowded Teeth

The type of treatment depends on a person’s age and the type of dental crowding.

How Do Braces Work For Crowded Teeth?

Dental braces are the most common treatment option for overcrowding, especially in children. People get braces for aesthetic and functional reasons (not only to correct smiles but also to realign the jaws).

There are a few different types of braces to choose from, including:

metal bracesNewMouth

People visit their orthodontist every four to eight weeks until they remove the braces. They are left on for 18 months to three years.

What Experts Say

According to Dr. Qian, braces offer reliable and effective treatment for a wide range of orthodontic issues but may lead to discomfort and difficulties in cleaning.

Dr. Silver agrees with this, mentioning that maintenance can be challenging, and oral hygiene might pose challenges due to the presence of brackets and wires.

Does Invisalign Work For Crowded Teeth?

Clear aligners, such as Invisalign, are a type of orthodontic treatment that corrects crowded teeth and other forms of misalignment. They’re a virtually invisible alternative to braces.

Treatment consists of a series of removable aligners. You must replace aligners every two weeks. People wear the aligners for about 22 hours daily for about 20 weeks to correct misalignment.

In-office treatment (Invisalign) costs about the same as braces. Direct-to-consumer clear aligners cost less than Invisalign. Read our review of the best teeth straightening kits.

Types of Clear Aligner Treatments

There are multiple types of clear aligner treatments. These include:

  • In-office treatment — Examples are Invisalign, which requires visiting your orthodontist frequently
  • Hybrid models — Hybrid treatments include Candid; they require you to visit an orthodontist at the beginning of treatment, and then your treatment is monitored remotely
  • Fully remote treatment — A treatment like Byte’s, never requires visiting an orthodontist; you order an impression kit online, and your treatment is done remotely

What Experts Say

Dr. Kahng says many older patients might opt for clear aligners or veneers for aesthetic reasons. She adds, “Clear aligners could be ideal for mild to moderate crowding and for those seeking a less noticeable alternative.”

Dr. Silver says that as a dentist, she appreciates the removable nature of Invisalign. It facilitates easier oral hygiene and allows for more dietary freedom.

Can Veneers Fix Crowded Teeth?

Dental veneers can treat moderate cases of dental crowding in adults. They are thin, customized shells of tooth-colored materials that fit over the front of teeth to improve their appearance.

A dentist bonds the shells to your teeth to change the following in your teeth:

  • Length
  • Size
  • Color
  • Shape
  • Function

Veneers are more expensive than braces and clear aligners but require fewer office visits. In more severe cases, veneers might be placed after orthodontic treatment.

What Experts Say

Dr. Silver states, “Veneers come into play when the issue is primarily cosmetic, addressing minor misalignments or imperfections.”

Dr. Qian also says, “Veneers can instantly improve the appearance of the teeth, but they require the removal of some tooth structures and may not address underlying alignment issues.”

veneer NewMouth

Can a Retainer Fix Crowded Teeth?

Fixed and removable retainers provide the necessary pressure to move slightly crowded teeth. They can’t straighten a patient’s teeth (only braces and clear aligners can do this).

Orthodontists don’t recommend using retainers to fix moderate to severe dental crowding.

Dentofacial Orthopedics For Teeth Crowding

Extreme dental crowding may require dentofacial orthopedics. Orthopedics focuses on guiding facial bone growth and properly aligning teeth.

Common orthopedic appliances include headgear and palatal expanders.

Find the best at-home clear aligners for mild misalignment. See our expert recommendations.

Is it Possible to Fix Crowded Teeth at Home?

It’s not possible to fix crowded teeth at home on your own. You must invest in treatment, such as braces, clear aligners, or veneers, to fix your teeth safely and effectively.

If you decide to get clear aligners, you will receive a new set of aligners every few weeks. This treatment is completed at home, and you will visit your orthodontist (in-office or virtually) for regular check-ups throughout the treatment process.

Read how to straighten your teeth at home without braces.

Summary

You can fix crowded teeth with braces, Invisalign, or at-home aligners (minor cases). Retainers, dentofacial orthopedics, and veneers can also correct some cases of dental crowding.

How to Prevent Dental Crowding

While dental crowding usually results from genetic factors, it can still be prevented. You can avoid crowded teeth by:

  • Regular check-ups — Regular visits to the dentist will help prevent dental crowding. Your dentist can identify early signs of crowding or misalignment and provide appropriate guidance.
  • Avoid unusual pressure — Unusual pressure on the teeth (such as thumbsucking and pacifier use in babies) can result in dental crowding. It’s best to avoid these to prevent crowded teeth.
  • Address dental trauma — If you or your child experiences dental trauma, seek immediate dental care. These injuries may result in crowded teeth if not addressed immediately.
  • Retainers — People who have completed orthodontic treatment must wear their retainers to prevent their teeth from shifting and becoming crowded again.

Straighten your teeth conveniently at home. Compare the best clear aligner brands.

Risk Factors of Untreated Dental Crowding

Ignoring dental crowding can invite multiple risks. Straight teeth do more than enhance your smile; they make it easier to maintain oral hygiene.

Dr. Qian mentions, “Properly aligned teeth are easier to clean, reducing the risk of cavities and gum disease. They also contribute to better bite function, alleviating jaw pain and difficulty chewing.”

Here are some of the risks associated with moderate to severe teeth crowding:

  • Increased risk of tooth decay and cavities
  • Gum disease
  • Jaw pain
  • Difficulty speaking and eating
  • Changes in facial appearance
  • Increased risk of traumatic injury to the teeth or gums 

Summary

Aside from aesthetics, straight teeth have various health advantages. They’re easier to clean, so finding ways to fix crowded teeth is best.

Do Impacted Wisdom Teeth Cause Front Teeth Crowding?

An impacted tooth is when a tooth is stuck under the gums and blocked by other teeth.

Many people believe this can cause dental crowding. However, no research suggests that impacted wisdom teeth cause crowding.

The force from wisdom teeth is not strong enough to make the front teeth crooked. Over time, everyone’s teeth become more crooked, whether they have wisdom teeth or not.

The only way to prevent misalignment after orthodontic treatment is to wear retainers to hold the teeth in place.

Summary

Impacted wisdom teeth do not cause front teeth crowding.

Common Questions on Crowded Teeth

Here are the most frequently asked questions about dental crowding:

What is mild crowding?

Mild crowding is when only one tooth is slightly rotated due to overcrowding.

Is it okay to have slightly crooked teeth?

Many people live a happy and healthy life with mild crowding. However, in addition to improving your appearance and self-esteem, straight teeth have many oral health benefits, making it less likely for you to develop cavities and other oral health conditions.

Can overcrowded teeth cause pain?

Yes, overcrowded teeth can cause pain in your mouth and jaw. It can also result in headaches.

Do crowded teeth get worse?

In most cases, yes, crowded teeth get worse with age. Though it varies from patient to patient, nearly all cases of overcrowded teeth get worse with age and can lead to more oral health complications as you age.

What type of braces work the fastest?

Byte’s exclusive HyperByte® aligner technology accelerates your treatment 2x faster than any other aligner company.

What is the cheapest you can get braces for?

Clear aligners are typically cheaper and just as safe and effective as braces. Many cost less than $2,000 for full treatment, and your health care plan covers some.

Can crowded teeth be fixed without braces?

Yes, clear aligners, veneers, palatal expanders, tooth extractions, and orthopedic headgear are all alternatives to braces that can fix crowded teeth.

How do I fix my bottom teeth crowding?

Braces, clear aligners, veneers, palatal expanders, tooth extractions, and orthopedic headgear are all possible treatments for bottom teeth crowding.

Will removing teeth help with overcrowding?

Sometimes, removing teeth will help with overcrowding. It depends on the severity of your crowding and the size and shape of your teeth and jaw.

What’s Next?

Discover the best fit for your smile.

Explore top at-home clear aligner brands.

Last updated on February 16, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 16, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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