Crooked teeth and misaligned bites
Most teeth grow straight in their proper place in the mouth, but some problems can cause teeth to grow crooked, overlapping or twisted.
Reasons for crooked teeth include the mouth being too small or teeth being crowded. Sometimes baby teeth or milk teeth don't fall out soon enough to make space for adult teeth.
If a person's upper and lower jaws aren't the same size or are malformed, there can be an overbite or underbite.
Thumb sucking, bottle and dummy use can move teeth around over time, while other tooth traits may be inherited.
What problems come with crooked teeth and misaligned bites?
Crooked teeth and misaligned bites 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
- Make people feel self-conscious about their appearance and affect their self-esteem
How do I know if my teeth are crooked or my bite is misaligned?
While you can see for yourself if your teeth are crooked, your dentist can determine if your problem warrants treatment. Your dentist will look for the following signs:
- Abnormal alignment of your teeth
- Abnormal appearance of your face
- Difficulty or discomfort when chewing or biting
- Speech difficulties, including a lisp
Your dentist will usually refer you to an orthodontist - a dentist who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of crooked teeth and misaligned jaws.
What tests can I expect at the orthodontist?
The orthodontist will probably take X-rays, photographs of your face, and teeth impressions to determine if and what type of treatment is needed. X-rays provide information on the position of your teeth and roots and if there are any teeth that have yet to come through the gums. Special cephalometrics or panoramic X-rays show the relationship of the teeth to the jaws and the jaws to the head. Your orthodontist may also want to take regular photographs of your face to further examine the relationship between your teeth, jaws, and head. Finally, impressions may be made of your teeth. This is done by having you bite down on a soft material that is later used to create an exact copy of your teeth.
How are crooked teeth and misaligned bites treated?
Once a diagnosis is made, your orthodontist can decide the best treatment for your teeth or misaligned bite. For some people, a removable retainer (to stabilise the new position of teeth) will be all that's needed to correct the problem. Removal of one or more teeth may be required if overcrowding is the main problem. For most people, braces are necessary to correct the problem. In rare and extreme cases, such as an extreme overbite or under bite, an operation may be necessary.