Teeth crowding, which also goes by the more formal term of malocclusion, describes a misalignment of teeth. Other terms for malocclusion include crossbite, overbite, underbite, and open bite. In this article, we explain the options you have for overcrowded teeth treatment, not before we provide a short account of the most common teeth crowding causes and symptoms.
Teeth Crowding Causes & Symptoms
Teeth misalignment arises from the failure of the tooth size to match the jaw size. Culprits for crowded teeth often arise from habits in early childhood years, such as using feeding bottles for a long time, pacifier use beyond age three, thumb sucking, and tongue thrusting. Oral tumors, poor dental hygiene, genetics, and cleft lip or palate also cause crowded teeth.
When left untreated, teeth crowding prompts complications, such as discomfort during or otherwise interference with chewing, abnormal appearance of the face, and misalignment. Risk of gingivitis and periodontal disease can increase with crowded teeth. In rare cases, those with malocclusion may have a lisp or other speech impediment.
Can Braces Fix Crowded Teeth?
Braces apply force to adjust teeth to the correct position and alignment. Metal serves as the traditional material for braces. The use of these braces can prove effective, but bad habits can compromise their benefits. Brackets can break if you eat popcorn kernels, hard candy, or other hard foods. The use of braces also requires faithful and careful brushing and flossing, especially as the hardware for braces can trap food and other particles in your teeth.
Invisalign is a non-metal brace that uses a plastic mold. You supply the basis for the mold through a detailed photograph of your mouth, including teeth and gums, in order to get your Invisalign. From there, the company maps your mouth and teeth to fashion the braces.
Bonds made of ceramics and plastics may also perform the functions of braces.
When teeth crowding is not extensive, retainers may come to your aid. You might think of these as braces, but they are technically different from braces. Retainers have to be kept as a treatment on the teeth longer than braces, often as a follow-up to braces. This is because the gums and bones must adjust to the changes caused. Patients can use retainers of rubber or plastic along with metal wires. Like braces, retainers put pressure on the teeth to return them to and keep them in proper alignment.
Expansion and Movement
Expanding or adjusting the pallet constitutes another choice for how to fix crowded teeth. The theory lies in applying force to correct defects in the jaw that often result in improperly aligned teeth.
This can be accomplished with a number of instruments. One is the Herbst Appliance. Dating back to the turn of the 20th century, but having its revival as a technique in the mid-1970s, this device is essentially an artificial telescopic joint between the upper and lower jaw (otherwise known as the maxilla and mandible, respectively). With this appliance, the patient’s lower jaw develops forward to promote the meeting of the upper and lower jaw and the ultimate correction of the misalignment or overbite.
Headgear, especially used for children with overbites, pressures the upper teeth and jaw into the correct position. In younger patients, orthodontists may bond expanders to upper molars to create a palatal expander. Dental cement provides the bonding agent. With pressure applied to the upper jaw, extra bone grows between these halves of the upper jaw, and the upper jaw becomes wider. With this additional space, the teeth can assume their rightful places.
Removal of Crowded Teeth
Your dentist or orthodontist may resort to extraction as an overcrowded teeth treatment. In a simple extraction, a general practice dentist uses an “elevator” to loosen the tooth or teeth to be removed. Forcepts complete the extraction.
The more involved version of extraction consists of a small incision in the gum to remove the tooth or teeth. With the gum being cut, the patient may receive an intravenous injection of anesthesia in addition to local anesthesia. For simple extractions, typically it is just the local anesthesia that suffices. If you need the surgical extraction, an oral surgeon will likely perform the procedure. General dentists may also do these extractions.
Changing the Tooth’s Appearance
Rather than pulling teeth or relying on braces, some dentists may treat overcrowded teeth by repairing the teeth:
- Reshaping: To adjust the contour of the teeth, a dentist takes a laser or drill to remove enamel. In this process, the teeth are made even or otherwise shaved to prevent future overbite. Depending upon the amount of work required, a reshaping procedure can take as little as half an hour.
- Bonding: A putty-like resin can fill gaps and areas of chipping in the teeth. As part of bonding, the dentist will chip out excess or rough edges in the teeth and create a smooth shape before applying the bonding. Patients may experience some sensitivity in this process.
Adjusting to Teeth Crowding Treatments
Using braces and oral appliances can interfere with your chewing. As we have already mentioned, certain hard foods may prove difficult to eat, if not off-limits. Some of the appliances, especially the Herbst Appliance, limits the amount of your mouth available for swallowing. Thus, you might need to use a straw.
Brushing and flossing may take extra time, especially to reach the crevices and other areas caused by the presence of all the brackets and other pieces of dental appliances. Yet, these processes are extremely important, as neglected pieces of food can lead to periodontal disease and other problems.
Teeth crowding brings both aesthetic and health complications to the fore. With these examples of how to fix crowded teeth, you can restore the look and function of your mouth. Tell us whether you have used any of these treatments, and how they have worked for you. Additionally, share any other teeth crowding treatment you might be aware of that is not on this list.