Crowded Teeth: Causes, Treatment & Risks

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Medically Reviewed
by Dr. Lara Coseo
Alyssa Hill
Written by
Alyssa Hill
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Evidence Based
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4 sources cited
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What is Dental Crowding (Crowded Teeth)?

Crowded teeth, also called overcrowding or dental crowding, is when there is not enough space in the mouth for permanent teeth to grow in straight.

As a result, people with this form of malocclusion (misalignment) have crooked teeth that overlap each other.

crowded teeth scaled 1

Overcrowding can either be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the patient’s jaw size and how many teeth they have:

  • Mild Crowding — mild dental crowding is when one anterior tooth in the upper or lower jaw is slightly rotated.
  • Moderate Crowding — moderate dental crowding is when two to three anterior teeth overlap in the upper or lower jaw.
  • Severe Crowding — severe dental crowding is 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.

What Causes Crowded Teeth?

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

  • If teeth are larger than the jaw (genetics), the teeth do not fit correctly and tend to overlap or twist. 
  • Some people are born with a smaller jaw (genetics), which can result in dental crowding as permanent teeth grow in.
  • If you lose a primary tooth too early, other teeth can move into the empty space.
  • If permanent teeth do not erupt properly due to over-retained baby teeth. This is when teeth loosen but then tighten back into the gums, preventing the eruption of permanent teeth. A dentist typically extracts over-retained baby teeth to allow for the proper eruption of permanent teeth. Not removing them commonly results in dental crowding.

SUMMARY

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

Do Impacted Wisdom Teeth Cause Front Teeth Crowding?

When a tooth is stuck under the gums and blocked by other teeth, it is referred to as an impacted tooth. Many people believe this can cause dental crowding. Although, there isn’t any research that suggests impacted wisdom teeth cause crowding.

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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.

How to Fix Crowded Teeth

The type of treatment depends on the patient’s age and whether the dental crowding is mild, moderate, or severe.

How Do Braces Work For Crowded Teeth?

Dental braces are the most common treatment option for overcrowding, especially in children. People get braces for both 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 traditional metal braces, clear braces, and lingual braces.

metal bracesNewMouth

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

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 are a virtually invisible alternative to braces and cost about the same.

Treatment consists of a series of removable aligners, and you must replace them every two weeks. Patients wear the aligners for about 22 hours each day for about 20 weeks to correct even mild malalignment.

Direct to consumer clear aligners cost less than Invisalign. Read our review of the best teeth straightening kits.

Can Veneers Fix Crowded Teeth?

Dental veneers can be used to 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 their length, size, color, shape, and function.

veneer NewMouth

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.

Can a Retainer Fix Crowded Teeth?

Fixed and removable retainers provide the necessary pressure to move slightly crowded teeth. They are not, however, capable of straightening a patient's teeth (only braces and clear aligners can do this). Orthodontists do not 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 aligning teeth properly in the process. Common orthopedic appliances include headgear and palatal expanders.

Is it Possible to Fix Crowded Teeth at Home?

It is not possible to fix crowded teeth at home yourself. 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 our clear aligners vs braces comparison to learn which treatment is better for you.


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.

Risk Factors of Untreated Dental Crowding

Not only do straight teeth improve your appearance and self-esteem, but they also have oral health benefits. For example, straight teeth are easier to clean, brush, and floss between, which leads to better oral hygiene. Thus, you are less likely to develop cavities and other oral infections.

If you have moderate to severe teeth crowding, you are more likely to develop tooth decay and gum disease. This is because teeth that overlap are more difficult to clean on a daily basis. Poor oral hygiene can also lead to general health complications over time, such as a weakened immune system and heart disease (rare).

SUMMARY

Crowded teeth are more prone to decay and gum disease because they are more difficult to brush and floss between.

Crowded Teeth FAQs

Here are the most frequently asked questions about dental crowding:

What causes overcrowding of teeth?

Genetics are a common cause of overcrowded teeth. If you have large teeth or a small jaw, it can result in crowding of the teeth. Losing primary teeth too early or too late are also top causes of crowded teeth.

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 and make 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 crowded teeth get worse with age and can lead to more oral health complications as you get older.

Can overcrowding teeth be fixed?

Yes, in fact you should seek treatment as early as possible. Clear aligners, braces, veneers, palatal expanders, and orthopedic headgear are all common treatment options.

How do you treat crowded teeth?

It depends on the patient's age and the severity of their case, but tooth extractions, clear aligners, braces, veneers, palatal expanders, and orthopedic headgear are all common treatment options.

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 some are covered by your health care plan.

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 long do you need braces for crowding?

It depends on the severity of your condition as well as the type of braces used. For clear aligners, results typically take 6 to 18 months. For metal braces, treatment usually takes 18 to 24 months.

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, as well as the size and shape of your teeth and jaw.

What’s Next?

Clear aligners and traditional braces are the most popular orthodontic treatments. Learn about the pros and cons of both.

Resources

Cobourne, Martyn T., and Andrew T. DiBiase. Handbook of Orthodontics. Elsevier, 2016.

“Crowding (Tooth).” Crowding (Tooth) - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/crowding-tooth.

Recognizing and Correcting Developing Malocclusions: a Problem-Oriented Approaches to Orthodontics. Wiley, 2015.

MENEGHINI, FABIO. CLINICAL FACIAL ANALYSIS: Elements, Principles, and Techniques. SPRINGER, 2012.

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