Teeth alignment can affect your appearance and your health. Find out different types of misalignment and potential solutions.
Overlapping teeth, gaps, underbites, large overbites: when it comes to teeth and jaws, there are lots of different types of crookedness and misalignment. They may only affect your smile’s appearance, but sometimes misalignment can create risks or health problems.
If you want to speak with a professional about how to straighten your teeth or your child's teeth, make an appointment with a dentist or an orthodontist to discuss your options.
What causes teeth to be crooked?
Crooked teeth can be genetic. Other factors can impact the position of your teeth and jaws, including:
- thumb sucking at an early age
- teeth growing too close together (crowding)
- missing teeth, which may cause nearby teeth to shift (this can include genetically missing teeth, or extraction of teeth due to decay)
- wisdom teeth erupting in a way that creates space issues or crowds other teeth.
If your teeth don't fit together properly when you close your mouth, this might mean your teeth and jaws are misaligned (malocclusion). The most common types of bite problems are:
- overbite – your upper teeth overlap too far over your bottom teeth and may stick out
- underbite – your bottom teeth overlap your top teeth and your jaw might stick out
- crossbite – your upper and lower teeth overlap unevenly, which might put strain on your jaw
Are crooked teeth unhealthy?
Crooked teeth by themselves may not be unhealthy, but the type and severity of misalignment can sometimes create health problems.
Some types of malocclusion can:
- make it hard or painful to eat certain foods, which could affect your diet and nutrition
- make it harder to clean some of your teeth, possibly putting you at a higher risk of tooth decay or gum disease
- put greater stress on surrounding teeth
- cause your teeth or jaw to protrude, which may put you at greater risk of injury
- cause teeth grinding
- put extra strain on your jaw muscles and joints, which can lead to problems such as TMJ dysfunction.
Do I need to straighten crooked teeth?
A dentist or doctor should advise you about whether there’s a health problem, and then help you weigh the costs and benefits of orthodontic treatment.
If your concerns are cosmetic or appearance-related, the decision depends entirely on your own preferences and circumstances.
What are home remedies for crooked teeth?
You should never try to perform your own orthodontic treatment. The Australian Society of Orthodontics has warned that attempting “DIY braces” at home can result in permanent damage and even tooth loss1.
If you’re concerned about dental costs in Australia, consider searching for a dentist or orthodontist who offers payment plans that might help you break up costs over time. Most clinics will offer some kind of payment plan, contact them directly to find out.
How can I straighten my teeth?
If you have crooked or misaligned teeth, your dentist might recommend an orthodontic assessment or refer you to a specialist orthodontist.
Your dentist or orthodontist will then discuss the most suitable treatments to help straighten your smile. Orthodontic treatment usually takes 18 months or longer, depending on how much straightening you need, but some treatments can be completed faster.
Traditional metal braces may be the right option if you’re looking for quicker treatment or the misalignment is more complex than other cases. If you don't want metal braces, your dentist or orthodontist may offer alternatives like tooth-coloured ceramic braces or lingual braces attached to the back of the teeth.
Invisalign™ and other brands of clear aligners can be an alternative to braces if your teeth are only slightly crooked or misaligned. These removable aligners are made from transparent plastic and tend to be less noticeable in the mouth than braces.
Dental veneers are cosmetic restorations made from porcelain or composite resin. These attach to teeth to change their appearance, which may cover up slightly crooked or misshapen teeth. But sometimes they aren’t suitable for more severe alignment problems.
How to prevent crooked teeth
Many times, the alignment of your teeth and jaws is genetic or unavoidable. Other times, you may be able to act before teeth start shifting or moving out of place.
Wisdom teeth removal
If a wisdom tooth is likely to push against your other teeth and cause them to become crooked or crowded, your dentist might recommend removing it.
Wisdom teeth removal can be straightforward or complex, depending on the individual case, and may involve oral surgery.*
Keeping your teeth (or replacing them if they fall out)
If you have a missing tooth, the gap may cause neighbouring teeth to shift or become crooked. Missing teeth can affect your appearance and your health in other ways too.
While it’s common for kids to get orthodontic treatment, that doesn’t mean you can’t straighten your teeth as an adult.
Because your bones are no longer developing, it’s possible that treatment may take longer than it would as a child. However, you can ask a professional about options like Invisalign™, which might offer greater flexibility and a more discrete appearance than traditional metal braces.
Questions about crooked teeth?
Find a dental clinic near you. DCN listings will let you know if clinics offer services like orthodontics and payment plans.
*Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
1 Australian Society of Orthodontists. The Dangers of DIY Braces. [Online] 2019 [Accessed June 2019] Available from: www.aso.org.au
The purpose of this article is to promote better understanding of dental health topics. It’s not meant to replace professional advice or diagnosis. Always talk to a dentist, doctor or other qualified healthcare professional if you have a question about dental or medical conditions.