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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.
Overcrowding can either be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the patient’s jaw size and how many teeth they have:
The cause of dental crowding can be due to a variety of factors, including:
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.
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.
The type of treatment depends on the patient’s age and whether the dental crowding is mild, moderate, or severe. Common teeth straightening options for crooked teeth include:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No, it is not possible to fix crowded teeth at home. 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, but you will visit your orthodontist for regular check-ups throughout the treatment process.
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).
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.
Mild crowding is when only one tooth is slightly rotated due to overcrowding.
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.
Yes, overcrowded teeth can cause pain in your mouth and jaw. It can also result in headaches.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
Read more about Clear Aligners
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.