Teeth erupt crookedly for a number of reasons that range from genetics to mouth deformities and serious oral diseases. When extra teeth or abnormally large teeth create a malocclusion (crookedness or misplacement of teeth), the culprit is usually genetic in nature. Other inherited traits involve jaws that are too small to accommodate a full set of teeth and misaligned jaws that did not form properly in the womb.
Can crooked teeth be prevented?
In most cases, underbites, overbites, and crooked teeth are genetically derived and can’t be avoided. Some examples of those issues that may be a result of genetics include:
- Extra teeth
- Large teeth
- Missing teeth
- Wide spaces between teeth
- Small jaws
Childhood Behaviours that Can Cause Crooked Teeth
However, certain early childhood behaviors may also contribute to the development of crooked teeth that can be avoided. These include:
- Thumb sucking and tongue thrusting
- Losing baby teeth to decay before permanent teeth have naturally pushed them out of their sockets
- Allowing pacifier use to continue after front teeth have erupted
Some other causes include:
- Tongue thrusting or improper use of the tongue during speaking and swallowing
- Poor breathing airway caused by enlarged adenoids or tonsils
Permanent teeth underneath baby teeth are directly affected by the health of baby teeth. If baby teeth are prematurely lost due to decay or trauma, permanent teeth will shift when they start moving upward. Baby teeth are like anchors for permanent teeth that help guide them as they erupt through the gums.
In addition, excellent care of baby teeth is vital to having healthy permanent teeth free of discoloration or decay. Harmful oral bacteria can spread into the gums and reach permanent teeth still buried in the gums. Once attached to a tooth’s enamel, bacteria will begin eroding the tooth even before it has a chance to take its first bite!
What is the harm of crooked teeth?
Dr. Timothy Foley and our team know that having crooked teeth isn’t just a cosmetic issue; it can lead to serious health problems as well. Crooked teeth can:
- Interfere with proper chewing
- Make keeping teeth clean more of a challenge, increasing the risk of tooth decay, cavities, and gingivitis
- Strain the teeth, jaws, and muscles, increasing the risk of breaking a tooth
When to Start Orthodontic Treatment for Crooked Teeth
Dr. Timothy Foley and our staff suggest that parents bring your child to Timothy Foley DDS, M.CI.D, FRCD(C) around age seven to rule out potential issues with permanent teeth eruption. If problems are discovered, it is not unusual to begin orthodontic treatment at that age. In fact, specific conditions such as crowding and gaps between teeth are easier to correct at an early age.
Early treatment also benefits from the growth process of the jaw, which helps move teeth to normal positions.