People often ask why their teeth have gone crooked, especially if they started off straight. In this blog we talk about the reasons why some people have wonky teeth and is it worth treating them to get them straight again.
It’s in our DNA
Genetics plays a role in the shape and size of our jaws and teeth but has more effect on the size and shape of the jaws (about 50% influenced by genetics) than the crookedness of teeth. Sometimes that may mean the amount of space in our jaws to fit in the teeth is too small or too big, other times it may mean we have a mismatch in the growth of the top and bottom jaws so teeth stick out. In turn that can affect the position of the teeth and hence whether they are straight or crooked.
Mind the Gap
Having missing teeth can also have an impact on the straightness of our smiles. Some teeth are guided into the right position by the neighbouring teeth, so if they are not there the teeth can come through in the incorrect position. If you lose baby teeth too early, it allows other teeth to drift forwards and this can mean less space for the replacement adult tooth when it starts to come through. In adults, having a missing tooth the next door teeth begin to tip over into the space, or the opposite tooth starts growing down further as it tries to stay in contact with the opposite jaw.
This could affect the way teeth bite together long term and can cause problems if you wanted to replace that missing tooth later in life.
It’s a habit
Thumb or finger sucking at a young age will affect the way the teeth and jaws develop. Prolonged thumb sucking has been shown to push the top front teeth outwards leading to more prominent overbite. Finger sucking also affects the teeth and jaws but is more likely to affect the teeth at the sides. In some patients there will be a notable gap between the upper and lower teeth, and can cause issues with the ability to bite or chew food.
If a patient has active gum disease, the ligaments that support the teeth (linking them to the surrounding bone) are irreversibly damaged and in the presence of infection the tooth socket becomes widened and inflamed. This allows the teeth to drift easily and sometimes very quickly. It is important to have your gums checked for signs of gum disease as this will need to be under control before teeth can be straightened again.
We get wrinkles as we age
Increasing crookedness of teeth with time is unfortunately part of the aging process. We get wrinkles in our faces, skin and teeth! So it’s to be expected in an aging population that tooth straightening will be required in later life for some. A few patients notice that as their wisdom teeth come through that their front teeth have started to cross over – this is not the case! Lower front teeth have the tendency to cross over all on their own!
It’s the fact that they move forwards and the teeth behind creep forwards to keep the teeth touching together that there is now room for the wisdom teeth to erupt into the mouth.
In some cases teeth can be knocked out of line due to a direct blow to the mouth. If this is not put back into the right position within a few hours the tooth can be left permanently in the wrong position making them look crooked. If this happens to a baby tooth it could affect the shape of the permanent tooth developing below. To prevent trauma during contact sports such as rugby or games played with a hard stick and hard ball we recommend wearing a custom made sports guard.
Stopping your retainer wear
Many patients still think that they only need to wear their retainers for a few years after finishing treatment. However, most orthodontists recommend lifelong retainer wear to keep teeth in a good position and minimise the effect of aging and growth changes. So if you want to keep that brace straight smile looking good forever – that’s how long the retainers need to be worn!
Is it worth straightening teeth?
If you don’t like how your crooked teeth look and it’s affecting your confidence to smile then straightening them is worth it. You have to appreciate that straightening teeth is an investment in time and money. You will need to commit to attending appointments regularly. It can be uncomfortable at the start, and you may get niggles. Once the teeth have been straightened they won’t stay put without help so it’s not just about the treatment, retainers are important too. BUT….. If you are prepared to go through all of that then you’ll be really glad you did.