For many, our teenaged years were awkward. Our bodies were growing and changing and many of us could not even take a step without tripping over ourselves. Many of us also had to deal with braces, which restricted what we could eat, hindered our speech, and were ultra uncomfortable. Braces, however, as with puberty, are one of those necessary evils that help us develop into healthy adults. Malocclusion, commonly known as crowded or crooked teeth, sends thousands of kids and adults to the dentist every year. What causes crowded teeth, and are metal braces the only viable solution?

Happy teenage girl

Setting the Record Straight

Occlusion is the ideal overlap and alignment between your upper and lower teeth. Your upper teeth should fit slightly over your lower teeth. There should be no crowding or crooked/twisted teeth on your upper or lower jaw. Malocclusion is anything the deviates from typical occlusion and falls into three categories. Category 1 describes a normal bite, but with severe crowding and issues with spacing. Category 2, also called retrognathism, describes a severe overbite. In other words, the upper teeth and jaw overlap the bottom teeth and jaw far more than they normally should. Category 3, also known as prognathism, describes an underbite, where the lower jaw and teeth overlap the upper jaw and teeth.

Malocclusion can occur genetically due to tumors or cleft lip or palate. However,  certain behaviors can lead to crowded teeth and should be avoided. Using a pacifier after the age of 3, or prolonged use of a bottle in early childhood can cause issues in the alignment of your children’s teeth. Trauma, or even poorly fitted dental crowns can also cause crowded and misaligned teeth.

As a whole, modern humans are more disposed to crowded teeth because our jaw doesn’t develop as much as that of our ancestors. This is due in part to eating more processed foods. These foods don’t require as much strenuous chewing, which means our jaws aren’t stimulated to grow as much. This means there is not enough room for all our teeth. As a result, people have long had their wisdom teeth removed, but even then there may not be enough room. In addition to crowded teeth, the development of small jaws also contributes to small airways, which increases the risks of snoring and sleep apnea.

When You Should Come In

While the most obvious symptom of malocclusion is crooked or misaligned teeth, others are not so obvious. If you notice that you or your child are frequently biting the insides of your cheek or tongue, are developing a lisp, or are having other issues chewing or talking then you should consider visiting a dentist to check for malocclusion.

A dentist will x-ray your teeth to check and see if there are any that are impacted, and will set the best course of action for your treatment. Typically, we treat malocclusion with braces, but luckily, technology has come a long way since we were kids. Most dentists today use Invisalign, which is not only more discreet, but is also much more comfortable because it doesn’t have metal brackets or wires like traditional metal braces. Invisalign can even be healthier than traditional metal braces.

But some people still benefit from traditional braces. Fortunately, braces are faster than in the past. Six Month Smiles isn’t just a name: it can straighten teeth in just six months.

If you live in the Rochester area and are dealing with crowded and crooked teeth, please consider visiting a dentist at Contemporary Dentistry. Please give us a call at (585) 244-3337 to schedule an appointment today.