According to the American Association of Orthodontics, more than one-third of Americans aren’t happy with their smile. While some aren’t satisfied with the whiteness of their smile, others simply don’t like their crooked teeth.
Unfortunately, misaligned teeth, or malocclusions as they’re known in the industry, aren’t simply a problem for an unfortunate few. Instead, it’s thought that they affect around 20% of us at some point in our lives, causing gum problems, bite problems and more serious disorders of the temporomandibular joint including headaches, clicking, and jaw pain.
Okay, so that’s the bad news… The good news is that there are things that can be done to fix pretty much all malocclusion types. These range from accelerated braces treatment — for a minimally gapped or crooked tooth — through to surgical procedures for more serious issues. Most patients fall somewhere in between. In these cases, orthodontic braces and clear aligners are the usual forms of crooked teeth treatment and patients can expect treatment to take anywhere between 5-6 months and several years to complete.
So, when it comes to crooked teeth types, what exactly are they? Let’s take a look!
Crowded teeth are extremely common and are usually caused by a lack of space in the jaw as we develop. There’s an interesting theory based around why this is and you can read more about it here. It’s the reason most teens and adults seek orthodontic treatment. Thankfully, it can usually be rectified using modern braces and clear aligner treatment. In some cases, extracting teeth like premolars or removing small amounts of enamel between teeth in a procedure called Interproximal Reduction (IPR) is necessary to increase the space available to improve crowding.
While a certain amount of overlap between our upper and lower front teeth is normal, in some cases increased overbite can cause front teeth to bite down onto the gums. As you can imagine, when you’re trying to chow down on your favorite foods that’s pretty unpleasant/annoying or both! In these cases, removable transparent aligners and fixed braces are often prescribed to help with overbite teeth problems.
Not to be confused with an overbite, overjet teeth occur when the teeth protrude horizontally. It isn’t as common as an overbite and as well as creating issues when biting and chewing, sufferers are at greater risk of teeth grinding (‘bruxism’) and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Treatment usually involves a combination of braces and palatal spacers. However, for major overjet extensions, oral surgery is usually the best way to correct the shape of the palate and improve jaw positioning.
Crossbites and underbites
As opposed to an overbite, a crossbite occurs when your upper teeth bite inside your lower teeth affecting both front and back areas. An underbite (also known as an anterior crossbite) is exactly the same issue but it affects the front teeth only. Either way, continual bite pressure can cause the lower teeth to be forced out over time, often resulting in crooked teeth problems.
Crossbites and underbites can usually be fixed with a combination of braces/clear aligners and a palatal expander, or (in the case of an underbite) fixed braces, which move and tilt the teeth back into position.
Sometimes the front upper teeth don’t touch the opposing bottom teeth at all when biting down and it can feel like your mouth is open even when it’s not! Unfortunately, this can lead to speech and pronunciation issues as well as preventing you from properly chewing and digesting food. In these instances, custom-made braces, high-pull headgear, and oral surgery can all be used to correct this misaligned teeth problem.
Another malocclusion type that is extremely common is spacing. This is so called when people have gaps between two or more teeth. Spaces can be caused by having irregularly shaped teeth, but can also be exacerbated through childhood habits such as thumb-sucking or tongue thrusting.
Suggested treatments usually point to clear aligners or orthodontic braces which gradually move teeth back into position. However, in some cases where the gaps aren’t too prevalent, other options such as dental bonding can also be applied as a ‘quick fix’ option to cover up any unsightly gaps. Alternatively, porcelain veneers can also be fitted to extend the width of the tooth to plug the gap.
A diastema is a genetic or hereditary condition, and of all the malocclusion types, they’ve been getting a lot of press lately but for reasons you probably won’t expect. Where crooked teeth, crowded teeth, and overbites can be problematic, there’s no reason to suspect that diastemas are.
So what is a diastema?
It’s simply a slight gap between two teeth, usually affecting the front teeth. People such as the late great Robin Williams, pop queen Madonna, political trailblazer Condoleeza Rice, Late Show host David Letterman, and model and actress Lauren Hutton, have all proudly shown them off.
That said, if you really do feel that it does nothing for your image then this gappy problem can be closed relatively easily using orthodontic braces or aligner treatment. Just be aware that you might need to continue wearing a retainer to prevent the diastema from reoccurring.
So there you have it, everything you need to know about crooked teeth, malocclusion types and more besides! Perhaps though, the most important thing to note is that you don’t have to put up with a less than perfect smile if you really don’t want to. A consultation with your friendly orthodontist will give you the recommendations you need to move toward getting a great smile you can be proud of.