Crowding teeth are a problem that affects many children and some adults too. It is characterized by insufficient space of the dental arch that cannot host all the teeth, which, as result, become crowded.
Aside from the obvious aesthetic problem, crowding teeth can cause other, more serious issues. Since they are cramped closely together, they are not easy to access, which makes it difficult to properly clean them; this increases the risk of tooth decay, plaque and tartar, which lead to periodontal disease, toothache and jaw pain, gum recession, loose teeth and other problems.
Causes of crowding teeth
One of the major causes of crowding teeth is a small jaw. This does not necessarily mean that a person who has crowded teeth suffers from micrognathia, a condition characterized by abnormally small jaw. It simply means that the jaw is not big enough to host all the teeth in the proper place, so they stick closer together. This problem becomes particularly aggravated upon the eruption of wisdom teeth, which often become impacted due to the lack of space.
Crowding teeth can be caused by certain bad habits, like thumb sucking and mouth breathing. This can lead to narrowing of the palate, and consequently to crowding teeth in the upper arch.
Teeth may become crowded due to improper eruption sequence. If the milk teeth are affected by tooth decay, they need to be extracted to make place for the permanent teeth. If a space retainer is not placed, the new, permanent teeth can grow prematurely to fill the empty space, and this can lead to crowding when all the permanent teeth erupt.
How to fix crowding teeth
The treatment for crowding teeth depends on their underlying cause. If the cause is small jaw, it may require certain appliances that increase the growth or reshape the jaw so it is in a slightly more forward position. The problem is this can only be done during the formation years, before the onset of puberty. After that, the jaw is completely formed and there is not much that can be done.
One of the most popular options for crowding teeth is an orthodontic treatment, in which brackets and wires are placed on the teeth, tightened so they apply a force and gently and progressively move the teeth until they are in an appropriate position.
In case of severe crowding, dentists recommend extraction of one or more teeth, usually wisdom teeth or premolars. This can be combined with braces but it takes some time for the teeth to assume their normal position. Sometimes it is necessary to wear a retainer even after the treatment to prevent crowding.