Crowded & Crooked Teeth | Causes & How to Straighten

Crowded & Crooked Teeth | Causes & How to Straighten

 Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH🔬 Evidence Based
Crowded & Crooked Teeth | Causes & How to Straighten

Gaps, teeth crowding, tilting, and crooked teeth. While they can mean major cosmetic concerns, crooked teeth also equate to a higher risk of dental issues as you get older. Like TMJ disorder and gum disease. When and how you address teeth crowding will depend on the severity of your tooth misalignment.

What Causes Crowded Or Crooked Teeth?

Why do some people have crooked teeth? If you’re able to identify the risk factors fairly early on, you can take steps to minimize the severity of gaps and teeth crowding while limiting the extent of corrective treatment you might need in the future.

Early orthodontic screenings should ideally happen by the time your child is 7 years old, but it’s never too late to get screened for these common causes:

1) Diet 

Are you always eating or sucking on something? Depending on what it is and how often you eat/drink it, those repetitive motions and pressure could physically move your teeth the same way a set of braces do!

2) Jaw Size 

Some people have a naturally smaller or larger jaw than what’s “right” to fit against the upper arch of teeth. Jaw size discrepancies and growth patterns can be the main source of some types of tooth misalignment.  

3) Poor Dental Care 

If you’re not great about brushing and flossing, you can develop some pretty heavy tartar buildup over time. The thicker the tartar becomes (and any gum recession that accompanies it) the more your teeth can become displaced.  

4) Poor Repetitive Behaviors 

The way your lips and tongue move will place gradual pressure on your teeth and bones, causing them to move over time. This is commonly seen in people with “tongue thrusts”, who press their tongue forward when they swallow. It’s also frequently observed in children who suck their thumbs or use a pacifier.

5) Malocclusion 

The term “malocclusion” is what dentists use to describe an atypical biting pattern, such as an overbite, crowded teeth, crossbite, underjet, etc. Malocclusions include anyone with crooked and misaligned teeth.  

6) Injury And Tooth Loss

Oral trauma that causes tooth loss or bone damage can change the natural growth patterns of your bite. For example, if your dentist extracts a baby tooth but you don’t get a space maintainer to keep the “gap” there, the adjacent teeth can tilt inward and block the permanent tooth from erupting properly.  

7) Genetics 

Does one of your parents have crooked teeth, a small jaw, impacted, or missing teeth? If so, there’s a much higher chance for those issues to “run in the family” and contribute to crooked teeth in multiple family members.

Issues Stemming From Crooked & Crowded Teeth

There are two general concerns that stem from crooked teeth: cosmetic and health issues. One is mostly appearance-based, which makes it personal and relative to the individual. Not everybody cares if their teeth look crooked! The other impacts the overall wellness of your smile. Yes, there are negative dental side-effects of having crowded and crooked teeth. It’s not an exaggeration.

Oral Hygiene  

Areas that are harder to clean will harbor more plaque and bacteria throughout the day. A toothbrush or floss may be difficult to work into those crowded and crooked spaces.


It’s not uncommon to feel embarrassed or self-conscious about how your teeth look. You may even refrain from smiling or laughing around other people, making you seem unfriendly or shy.  

Speech Ability 

The position of your teeth — like your tongue and lips — can affect your speech and the type of sounds you’re able to make.

Excessive Wear And Tear 

Teeth are durable, but when they hit together irregularly it can cause advanced enamel wear, broken dental work, and sharp edges along your smile.  

Health Issues 

People with crooked teeth are more likely to experience gum disease, and gum disease is directly linked to health issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and infertility.  

Leave Them Be Or Get Them Fixed? 

Look, you might not be inclined to address gaps or teeth crowding if aesthetics or self-confidence aren’t concerns. And your dentist and hygienist aren’t asking you to feel embarrassed. It’s great that you don’t. But having moderate to severely misaligned teeth eventually take a toll on your dental health the longer you wait to address it.

In time, crooked teeth will wear down at different rates than their neighbors. This can create teeth that are flat or short, leading to a “lopsided” bite. As that happens, your jaw starts to move in different ways outside of normal patterns of motion, just to thoroughly chew your food. This radiating change in your joint can lead to headaches, TMJ disorder, and pain in your neck and shoulders.  

Most importantly, you’re just at a higher risk of cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss if you don’t fix your crooked teeth. Those spaces between your teeth are statistically more likely to get tooth decay, periodontitis, and gum recession. Investing in orthodontic therapy is considered part of a comprehensive care plan when it comes to managing periodontal disease.

How To Fix Crooked Teeth?

Fixing crooked teeth starts with a trip to either a dentist’s or orthodontist’s office. Orthodontists specialize in everything braces-related. Dentists — although general care practitioners — sometimes have extra training in specific types of orthodontic treatment, such as clear aligners.

During your orthodontic consultation, your dentist or orthodontist will be able to assess the extent of your crowding and bite alignment. At that point, they can recommend one of the following braces systems and give you an estimated timeline of how long it will take to complete treatment. Everyone is different, so it’s impossible to get a quote for something like this over the phone.

Dental Braces

Traditional brackets and wires and clear aligners are all different types of braces systems. Each one works or looks a bit different than the other, but they all physically move your teeth into a straighter position. The key is specific points of pressure at certain areas throughout your mouth. All that “nudging” causes the teeth to tilt and turn into the desired position over a gradual period.

Metal Braces

Conventional braces use metal brackets and wires to bring your teeth into a more uniform arch shape. Colorful bands can be selected and changed out regularly to fit your personal preferences. These types of braces are popular with kids and teens.

Ceramic Braces

For a more discreet and cosmetic approach to braces, you can get your orthodontist to use tooth-colored ceramic appliances. These systems work the same way as metal braces but they blend in with your smile. They’re less noticeable during everyday conversations.  

Clear Aligner Systems 

Invisible braces systems such as Invisalign, ClearCorrect, and other transparent aligners can straighten most teeth just as well as conventional orthodontic treatment. The only difference is that they’re practically invisible. Snap on the snug tooth aligner and change them out as directed - your teeth will gradually move without wires or brackets being adjusted every month.


Once you finish orthodontic therapy, you’ll have to wear a retainer. It doesn’t matter which type of braces you had beforehand, your teeth will want to drift back to where they came from. A retainer will help preserve your current tooth alignment so that you can preserve your straight smile. Some orthodontic retainers will even slightly nudge your teeth back into position if they’re starting to drift out of place. The key is to not wait too long to put your retainer in. The more often we wear it, the less likely you’ll be to experience relapse.


“Instant braces.” That’s exactly what some people call cosmetic veneers. Since veneers are bonded directly onto the front of your teeth (the part that’s visible when you smile) in sets of six or more, your dentist can essentially straighten out your entire smile zone. Depending on how wide your smile is, you might need as many as 10 veneers across your upper front teeth. Veneers work well for masking minor tooth crowding, small gaps between teeth, discoloration, uneven enamel, and misshaped teeth. They require a two-step process to prep your teeth, take impressions, craft the veneers in a lab, and bond them into place. Your two visits are usually a couple of weeks apart.

Dental Crowns

If you have just one or two teeth that are both crooked and physically damaged, then a dental crown will be a better option than getting dental veneers. Crowns are protective restorations that safeguard teeth with excessive wear, cavities, cracks, and root canals. Unlike veneers, they’re usually only placed on one tooth here and there. One of the advantages of getting a crown over your tooth is that your dentist can adjust the size, shape, color, and position of your new, visible “tooth.” The crown can be slightly tilted or turned in one direction to create the illusion that your tooth is straight without having to get braces.

Benefits Of Fixing Crooked Or Misaligned Teeth?

Investing in orthodontic treatment provides both personal and health-related benefits to every dental patient. First of all, when you feel confident about the way your straighter teeth look, you’ll be more inclined to show them off. You won’t have to hold back if you want to laugh around other people, smile in a photo, or speak with a new colleague.

Even if your smile’s appearance just isn’t that big of a concern, the investment in straighter teeth will give your oral health a boost. Properly aligned teeth are far less likely to wear down prematurely, cause jaw pain, or harbor heavy plaque and tartar buildup (which are responsible for cavities and gum disease.) If you suffer from ongoing dental issues around crooked teeth, getting them straightened can help you finally get a hold on your smile’s health.

FAQ Crooked & Crowded Teeth

What Causes Crooked Or Overcrowding Of Teeth?

Most crooked teeth are caused by natural oral anatomy (from genetics) or because of oral habits (such as thumb and finger sucking or using a pacifier for too long.) If you already know your child is at risk for crooked teeth, it’s important to schedule orthodontic evaluations by age 7 and at least every 6-12 months afterward. Crowded and crooked teeth can also be caused by premature tooth loss.

Is It Okay To Have Minor Crooked Teeth? 

It depends on how “minor” it really is. Having mild crowding may be fine if you practice good oral hygiene and show no signs of premature enamel wear. But see your dentist regularly to have those areas monitored.  

What’s The Best Way To Treat Crowded Teeth? 

Work with your dentist or orthodontist to assess the severity and underlying cause of your crooked teeth. Lifestyle changes and/or orthodontic treatment are likely required. For instance, if you have a tongue thrust your dentist can work with you to break the habit and re-train your tongue. Younger children may need help with giving up a thumb-sucking habit. Ultimately the final correction will come from using braces or aligners to move your teeth.  

How Long Do You Need Braces For Crowding? 

The length of time wearing braces can vary from 6-24 months on average, with the typical patient completing orthodontic therapy in about a year. Cosmetic teeth straightening cases don’t take very long at all. You’ll need to see an orthodontist to get an accurate estimate.  

How Do I Fix My Bottom Teeth Crowding? 

Braces or aligners, followed by a fixed lingual retainer can correct and prevent bottom teeth crowding. It’s best to treat it sooner, as lower teeth crowding tends to become progressively more severe over time.  

Can Crooked Or Overcrowded Teeth Cause Pain? 

Yes, in the sense that they may cause atypical TMJ movement. TMJ disorder and headaches are not uncommon. Correcting your crooked teeth can help your jaws function in a more holistic, healthy manner.  

Do Crooked Teeth Get Worse With Time? 

Typically, yes. The cause of your crowding — unless corrected — may lead to continued tooth movement, creating crowded or gapped spaces. The older we get, the more likely our teeth are to start drifting toward the center of our smile (aka “midline.”)

 Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH"Teeth Talk Girl," is a registered dental hygienist. She started her dental health journey on YouTube, educating the public through videos.
Last updated onDecember 9, 2022Here is our process

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