The most common types of crooked teeth.

Medically Reviewed by a
Licensed DDS

Table of Contents

  1. History
  2. Different Types
  3. Cause Problems
  4. How Are They Fixed?
  5. Resources

There are many different types of crooked teeth.

Bite issues, such as overbite or underbite, are categorized from mild to severe. Crossbites, open bites, and deep bites are additional types of bite problems.

Crowding, spacing, and protrusions also lead to crooked teeth.

A history of misaligned or crooked teeth.

Our jaws have evolved over time, becoming smaller as we eat more cooked foods and use utensils to divide food into bites. As our jaws have become smaller, our teeth have not changed much. This is why modern humans still have third molars, or wisdom teeth, for example. Other problems are common due to our now smaller jaws, including misaligned teeth.

Genetics determine how much you will struggle with crooked or misaligned teeth throughout your life. Some people might never need braces or aligners, or they not need them for long. Others may need to return to orthodontic treatment throughout their lives.

Different types of crooked teeth.

While genetics largely determine the alignment of your teeth, some lifestyle factors can influence their alignment as well. These include:

  • Childhood habits, such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and prolonged use of a pacifier or bottle.
  • Having extra teeth like wisdom teeth for a long time, impacted teeth, abnormally shaped teeth, or losing teeth.
  • Oral hygiene issues.
  • Getting dental fillings, crowns, implants, appliances, braces, or retainers that do not fit.
  • Misaligned fractures after an injury, surgery, or tumor.

There are three basic types of malocclusions.

Class 1
This is the most common form of malocclusion and also the mildest. The bite is normal, but the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower teeth.
Class 2
Also called an overbite or retrognathism, this happens when the upper jaw and teeth severely overlap the lower jaw and teeth.
Class 3
Also referred to as an underbite or prognathism, this is a misalignment where the lower jaw sticks out or juts forward, so the lower teeth overlap the upper teeth and jaw.
While there are different levels of severity for overbites and underbites, there are other tooth and jaw alignment issues.
Crossbite
This occurs when upper teeth fit inside lower teeth, so the lower jaw overlaps them. This can cause the jaw to shift to one side, making jaw pain more likely.
Underbite
With this bite, the lower jaw extends past the upper jaw. This can cause excessive tooth wear and jaw stress.
Open Bite
Anterior open bites occur when the back teeth are together, but the front top and bottom teeth do not overlap. Posterior open bites occur when the front teeth meet but the back teeth do not. This can cause problems swallowing, tongue thrusting, and some speech problems in extreme cases.
Deep Bite
When the bite is closed, the upper front teeth cover the lower front teeth too much. This can cause the upper teeth to bite into the lower gums, or the lower teeth to bite into the roof of the mouth.
Crowding
There is insufficient space in the jaw for all the teeth. This makes teeth harder to clean, increasing the risk of cavities and other oral hygiene issues.
Spacing
There is a lot of space between the teeth. Food can get stuck in open areas, which can lead to cavities and gum disease.
Protrusion
Sometimes called buck teeth, this occurs when the upper jaw is thrust too far forward. This makes the upper teeth prone to accidental breakage. It can be hard to comfortably close the mouth and lips, which can lead to dried out oral tissues and some decay.

When do crooked teeth cause problems with your oral health?

The way your teeth and jaw fit together is a complex, individual system. Orthodontists specialize in correcting these issues with aligners or braces, other dental devices, and special procedures to move teeth faster. Sometimes, they may recommend surgery to align your jaw.

Although they can make you feel self-conscious, crooked, crowded, or misaligned teeth are not simply a problem with appearance. Many people have at least slightly crooked teeth, but extensive misalignment or malocclusion can become a health issue.

Crowded teeth are harder to clean. You cannot get to enough surfaces with a toothbrush and dental floss to remove food particles, which can lead to the development of plaque, gingivitis, and other issues. You are then at higher risk for cavities, which can lead to gum disease, jaw problems, and more intensive dental procedures like tooth extractions or root canals.

When teeth are in the wrong place, they can also cause wear and tear to your enamel, which can lead to decay and disease. You may inadvertently grind your teeth and clench your jaw to align your teeth or alleviate stress, but this can cause more enamel damage and pain.

Crooked teeth of all kinds are common in adults. The best way to manage the problem is to maintain regular dentist appointments throughout childhood and address misaligned adult teeth when they first grow in.

Even if you had braces as an adolescent, however, you may have crooked teeth as an adult. There are approaches to manage malocclusions that give you some freedom. Increasingly, adults are turning to at-home aligners and remote orthodontic consults to get the smile they want.

If you have crooked teeth or know that you want a straighter smile, it can help to know the specific misalignment issues you may have.

How are crooked teeth fixed?

Many people have at least a minor misalignment, but it is not serious enough to cause problems and does not need to be corrected. You may choose to correct it to improve the appearance of your smile, but if it does not cause discomfort, pain, or disease, your dentist will likely not refer you for other treatments.

If you want to straighten your crooked teeth, you have various options.

Aligners

Plastic retainers or aligners can adjust your teeth into proper alignment over a period of months or years. This works best for mild to moderate dental issues. They can also be applied as a final step after other, more intensive treatments are used to adjust your teeth and jaw.

Traditional aligners require in-person appointments. Doctor-monitored, at-home aligners don’t require any in-person appointments, and they are often the most affordable path to a straight smile.

Braces
Metal or ceramic devices are attached to your teeth and bound together with metal wires and/or rubber bands. They push your teeth into alignment over months or years. You’ll visit your orthodontist regularly to have your braces adjusted.
Tooth Extraction

In rare cases, you may need to have a tooth or two removed to alleviate overcrowding. Wisdom teeth are commonly removed for this purpose.

While tooth extractions used to happen more frequently for this reason, it’s now less common to extract other teeth to address crowding issues.

Uneven or Asymmetrical Teeth Repair
Your dentist may adjust the shape or edges of your teeth by removing some enamel, reshaping them, bonding them, or capping them. Misshapen teeth can push other teeth out of alignment and cause enamel problems, so this can be a way to ensure your teeth fit together properly if the issues are minor.
Surgery
In rare cases, you may need a surgical procedure to shorten or lengthen your jaw. Screws, plates, or wires may be placed in your jawbone to stabilize it.
Most commonly, braces or aligners are used to straighten teeth.

Resources.

Crowded or Crooked Teeth in Older Adults. (May 2019). Delta Dental.

Malocclusion of Teeth. (February 2018). MedlinePlus.

Seven Common Bite Problems in Children and Adults. (March 2019). American Association of Orthodontists (AAO).

Braces and Orthodontics. American Dental Association PatientSmart, Patient Education Center.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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