Overcrowded teeth are one of the most common reasons people visit the dentist. According to the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, “dental crowding is estimated to range between 30% and 60%.”
This is a bigger deal than you might think. Dental crowding can make it difficult to properly clean your teeth, leading to an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. They can also make biting and chewing difficult and cause your bite to be misaligned.
On top of that, packed teeth can make your smile look less attractive, which can be a real bummer.
Overall, it’s just better to have teeth that are correctly spaced and aligned to keep your mouth healthy and looking good.
What Causes Overcrowded Teeth?
It’s rare for anyone to have perfectly aligned teeth. Most teeth problems, such as crooked teeth or needing wisdom tooth removal, are directly associated with overcrowded teeth.
But why do so many of us have this issue? Why can’t we all naturally have the right size teeth that fit us perfectly?
That’s a pretty loaded question. But some of the most common causes for crowded teeth include:
- Genetics: If your parents or grandparents had crowded teeth, you might be more likely to have them.
- Larger than normal teeth: If your teeth are larger than average, they may not have enough room to fit properly in your jaw.
- Smaller than usual jaw: If your jaw is smaller than average, it may not accommodate all of your teeth.
- Thumb-sucking or prolonged use of pacifiers: These habits can cause teeth to shift and become overcrowded.
- Early or late loss of baby teeth: If baby teeth are lost too early or too late, it can cause crowding of adult teeth
Teeth Crowding Symptoms
You might think it’s pretty obvious when your teeth are crowding. It usually results in a crooked smile or overlapping teeth (like the picture about).
However, sometimes it’s so obvious. Or, you might think that your slightly misaligned teeth aren’t a big deal.
The truth is that any amount of overlapping teeth will put you at a higher risk of developing oral problems. Crowded teeth make it easy for plaque and debris to get trapped in your teeth, which can lead to things like:
- Gum disease
- Abscessed tooth
- Tooth decay
So, if you’re not sure whether or not your teeth crowding is an issue, here are a few things to look out for:
- Difficulty cleaning your teeth: If your teeth are very close together, it can be hard to get your toothbrush and floss in between them. This can increase your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
- Pain or discomfort when biting and chewing: If your teeth are crowded, it can be difficult to properly bite and chew food. This can lead to pain or discomfort.
- Jaw pain or headaches: Crowded teeth can cause your bite to be off, leading to headaches or other head pain.
- Receding gumlines: As mentioned earlier, overcrowded teeth can make it harder to clean your teeth properly, which can lead to gum disease, which can lead to receding gumlines.
- Discolored teeth: If you notice brown or black spots on your teeth, it could be from overcrowding because you can’t reach properly clean your teeth.
Can Crowded Teeth Cause Pain?
In some cases, overcrowded teeth can cause pain. When teeth are crowded, they may not align properly, which can lead to problems with the bite. This can cause pain or discomfort in the jaw and surrounding muscles and headaches. It can also make it painful to eat food or even speak.
Crowded teeth can also pressure certain teeth, leading to tooth hot/cold sensitivity.
Treatment for Overcrowded Teeth
The most common treatment for overcrowded teeth is braces. Braces work by gradually moving your teeth into the proper position over time. There are a variety of different types of braces to choose from, including:
- Traditional metal braces
- Clear braces
- Lingual braces (braces that are placed on the back of your teeth).
Another option is clear aligners, such as Invisalign, which are custom-made, clear plastic trays that fit over your teeth and gently shift them into place.
If you want to know whether your dentist will recommend braces instead of Invisalign, read this.
In some cases, removing teeth can help with overcrowding. Your dentist will only recommend a tooth extraction if there is not enough room in the jaw for all teeth. This is typically not the first option.
Fixing Overcrowded Teeth in Adults
Fixing overcrowded teeth in adults can be a bit more complicated than treating children or teenagers, but it’s definitely still possible.
The most common treatment options for adults include braces and clear aligners, just like for younger patients.
However, adult patients may be more self-conscious about having braces, so clear aligners such as Invisalign may be a better option for them.
If your dentist says Invisalign isn’t enough to correct your jammed teeth, ask about invisible (lingual) braces or possible tooth extraction.