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Misaligned teeth (malocclusion) is a common problem that can affect your smile and oral health. Malocclusion includes a variety of problems, such as:
When correctly aligned, the upper teeth should slightly overlap the lower teeth. Proper alignment allows for effective chewing through an even distribution of forces. However, around 75% of people have some degree of malocclusion.1
Misaligned teeth can cause various problems, including:2
The type and severity of malocclusion can vary significantly. Your dentist may recommend braces or other corrective devices for mild cases of malocclusion. For more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to realign the teeth.
There are several types of malocclusion:
Clear aligners can save you thousands of dollars compared to braces. Learn about clear aligners.
Here are some potential causes of teeth misalignment:
The most common cause of misaligned teeth is a jaw that's too small compared to the size of the teeth. Even a slight mismatch can cause overcrowding of the teeth, which then become misaligned as they seek the path of least resistance when erupting.3
Thumb-sucking is a common habit in children. If the habit becomes chronic, it can cause misalignment. The same problem occurs if someone habitually pushes their tongue against their front teeth.
If a tooth is lost, it creates a gap. The surrounding teeth may shift to fill the space if it isn't replaced with an implant, denture, or bridge. This can result in misaligned teeth.
Babies can be born with jaw problems that can cause misaligned teeth. These include cleft palate, which happens when the roof of the mouth doesn't form properly. The teeth then push forward and don't line up properly.4
A face or head injury can damage or fracture the bones and tissues that support the teeth. This can cause the teeth to become misaligned.5
Tumors or other growths can develop in the mouth. Depending on the location, they may force the teeth out of alignment as they grow.
Grinding or clenching your teeth can gradually push them out of their proper position. Eventually, this can result in a misaligned bite and problems with the temporomandibular joint.
Various medical conditions can cause malocclusion. These include Down syndrome and Turner syndrome. These conditions can cause abnormal jaw growth during fetal development.
Without treatment, dental problems, such as gum disease and cavities, can lead to misaligned and crooked teeth. Therefore, visiting the dentist regularly is essential to catch any problems early.
Not getting enough vitamins and minerals can lead to dental problems, including malocclusion. For example, vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is critical for strong, hard bones. Without enough vitamin D, the bones can soften, affecting tooth alignment.
Treatment depends on the severity of the malocclusion, the person's age, and their skeletal development. Sometimes, dentists may need to administer treatment in several stages. Potential options include:
These dental appliances consist of brackets bonded to the teeth, connected by wires and elastic bands, that exert forces on the teeth to gradually move them.
Once the teeth align correctly, the braces are removed, and the person must wear retainers to prevent the teeth from shifting back. Most people will wear the retainer for 24 hours per day initially, then only at night for 2 to 3 years.
These are custom-made, clear plastic appliances, similar to retainers. Like braces, they gradually move the teeth into alignment through tooth-colored ‘buttons’ temporarily bonded onto the tooth.
Each aligner can move teeth up to 0.3 mm. Then, the aligners are continuously replaced until the malocclusion is corrected. As with braces, the person must use a retainer to keep the teeth from shifting back.3
A dentist may need to remove or extract teeth to alleviate overcrowding. This allows the remaining teeth more space and improves their fit.
Sometimes, tooth removal occurs before someone has braces or tooth aligners.
Jaw anomalies or improperly healed fractures may require surgical correction. This may involve breaking bones and repositioning them with screws and plates.
A person may also require braces or other treatment in conjunction with surgery.
We recommend at-home clear aligners if you have mild teeth misalignment. View our top recommendations.
Yes, in some cases you may be able to prevent teeth misalignment. However, it depends on the underlying cause.
Some things that may help prevent malocclusion include:6
Several different factors can cause malocclusion or misaligned teeth. These include thumb-sucking, premature tooth loss, and jaw anomalies.
In some cases, it may be possible to prevent malocclusion. However, it depends on the underlying cause.
Treatment options for misaligned teeth include braces, tooth aligners, and surgery.