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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).
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.