dental instruments and oral health

What is Dental Crowding (Crowded Teeth)?

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

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.

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.

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.

Common Treatment Options for Dental Crowding

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

Braces

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 their jaw. 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 the braces are removed. They are left on for 18 months to three years.

Clear Aligners

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. The aligners are worn for about 22 hours each day for about 20 weeks to correct even mild malalignment.

Veneers

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. 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.

Dentofacial Orthopedics

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.