The best options to fix crowded teeth

Medically Reviewed by a
Licensed DDS

Table of Contents

  1. Crowded Teeth
  2. Health Risks
  3. Dentist Treatments
  4. At-Home Solutions
  5. References

Walk into the bathroom, turn on the light, face the mirror, and smile. If you see plenty of crowded teeth, you're not alone. Many people have smiles marred my teeth that overlap or nestle closely together.

All cases of crowded teeth are different, and some are more serious than others. Sometimes, the best way to fix crowded teeth is to work with a dentist and orthodontist on a series of extractions, spacers, and braces.

But sometimes, crowded teeth can be fixed at home with aligners. You'll still need a dental expert to supervise your progress, but this method could save you both time and money.

Why are your teeth crowded?

No one plans to have crowded teeth. We all want smiles that set us apart for their beauty, not their complexity. But teeth can crowd together for a variety of reasons, and some can't be controlled.

Heredity is responsible for most cases of tooth crowding, experts say. If most of your family photos show smiles marred by crowding, you're likely to deal with the same problem too. But you can also develop the issue due to:

  • Illness and injury. If you're hit in the face, your jaw can move out of alignment and change the position of your teeth. Some mouth and jaw tumors can also shift tooth placement.
  • Childhood habits. Prolonged bottle feeding or thumb sucking can contribute to tooth crowding.
  • Poor dental care. Loose or missing teeth, improperly fitting crowns, and more can all cause changes in tooth position.

All of the conditions mentioned above don't force your teeth to bunch together. Instead, they tend to either change the size of your upper or lower jaw, or they amend the ratio of your tooth size to your jaw size. These factors crowd your teeth together, experts say.

Crowded teeth can put your health at risk.

In a healthy mouth, your upper and lower jaws nestle together like a food storage container and its lid. When something ruins that close relationship, experts refer to the issue as malocclusion. In severe cases, it can cause significant health issues.

Teeth that are significantly crowded can cause:

Impaction
Injuries
Poor Self-Esteem
Dental Disease
Pain
When your jaw is too small to hold the teeth it has now, there's no room for new teeth to come in. Your body still produces those teeth, but when they can't find space, they can be lodged in your jaw. This condition is called impaction, experts say, and it can be very painful.
Researchers say that crooked teeth are more prone to injury. If your teeth twist outside of your lips, it's easier for them to get scraped or pushed aside during sports, eating, and other routine activities. Straight teeth can be harmed too, but researchers say crooked teeth have a higher risk of problems.
Researchers say that adolescents with crooked or crowded teeth have low levels of self-esteem. That's especially true of adolescent girls. It's hard to look in the mirror and see what are perceived as flaws. For young people, amending crowded teeth is the best way to feel better about the way they look.
Regular brushing and flossing keep bacteria and plaque from building up on teeth. But crowded teeth offer plenty of spots for food and waste to hide, and that can lead to problems you can't touch with routine dental care.
Jaws misaligned by crowded teeth don't fit together with ease, and that means jaw muscles and tendons must work harder to complete routine tasks like biting, chewing, and talking.
It's common for people to talk about crowded teeth as a cosmetic issue. But clearly, teeth that are bunched together can lead to a variety of secondary problems. Many of them have little to do with appearance at all.
Aligners aren't right for every mouth. But in cases of mild crowding, they could be just what you need to fix the problem permanently.

Dentist treatments for crowded teeth.

Dentists use a grading system to assess malocclusion. The higher the score, the more difficulties experts see in your jaw and teeth. If you've been assessed by a dentist or orthodontist, and you know you have severe malocclusion, you might need an expert's help to get better.

In severe cases of crowding, doctors may need to remove some teeth to make room for others. This is a significant step, and it isn't always necessary. But young children might benefit from that help. If a dentist can remove baby teeth and allow adult teeth to break through, for example, the child may have fewer crowding issues.

Young kids may also benefit from devices that shift the jaw into the right position. The device is typically worn during growth spurts, dentists say, and it slowly widens or moves the jaw to ensure that the two parts nestle together properly.

After teeth are removed or jaws are shifted, those crowded teeth must be pushed into the proper places. And often, this is a significant correction. Big gaps can remain after teeth are pulled, and sometimes, the remaining teeth are twisted or turned.

Orthodontists glue brackets onto the teeth, and they connect all the teeth together with wires. The wires get shorter and shorter in a series of appointments. Patients can't make these shifts on their own. They must visit the office to complete the work.

Braces can be quite expensive. It's not uncommon for patients to spend $5,000 or more. And most people who have braces must wear them for years to amend crowded teeth. After treatment, people must wear retainers to protect their investment, and those devices should be part of daily routines for the rest of life.

It's clear that braces are significant investments of both time and money. For some people, that's critical. But it's not always necessary.

At-home solutions for crowded teeth.

Imagine that your smile is marred by only a few crowded teeth. Maybe they're bunched right up in the center, where everyone can see them. Maybe you can feel them when you run your tongue over your smile. You can fix minor tooth crowding like this at home.

Doctor-monitored, at-home aligners put you in touch with a team of dental experts. They will:

  • Assess your smile. Typically, teams use photographs and at-home dental molds to determine how your teeth look now.
  • Plan for the future. A doctor looks over the molds and determines how your teeth should move.
  • Create aligners. Your team makes a series of plastic trays that slide over your teeth. Periodically, you swap out these trays for new sets. Slowly, your teeth take up new positions. Experts say aligners can move your teeth about 0.3 millimeter per tray.

Aligner companies use telemedicine techniques to assess progress. You still have appointments with an expert, but they're done via computer. This medicine model cuts expenses, and that means aligners often come with smaller price tags. You might pay $2,000 for aligners, which is less than half of what you might pay for braces.

Aligners can also work quickly when compared to braces. If your crowding issue is mild, you may only need the tools for a few months, not years.

References.

Bad Teeth? Here’s When You Can and Can’t Blame Your Parents. (September 2017). The Conversation.

Malocclusion of Teeth. (March 2020). Medline Plus.

Types of Malocclusion. (May 2017). Cigna.

Combined Effect of Anterior Malocclusion and Inadequate Lip Coverage on Dental Trauma in Primary Teeth. (February 2012). Dental Traumatology.

Effect of Malocclusion on the Self-Esteem of Adolescents. (October 2017). Journal of Orthodontic Science.

Malocclusion and Orthodontics. (October 2018). University of Michigan.

Malocclusion. (September 2018). Merck Manual.

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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