The varying causes of crooked teeth can include inherited traits, injuries to the mouth, and poor oral development. Over time, misaligned teeth can create problems with eating and speaking, and may cause jaw pain and discomfort. Treatment options usually involve an orthodontist, who can correct badly positioned teeth with dental hardware and surgery, if necessary. It may take several months to years to align the teeth, and the patient needs to be consistent about treatment for it to be effective.
Some families appear to have a genetic predisposition to crooked teeth. Their oral development is otherwise healthy and there is enough room in the jaw for the teeth, but they grow in crooked. Wearing retainers and braces can help pull the teeth into position as they develop so they will grow in straight. People aware of a family history of this problem may want to discuss it with their dentists to make sure their children receive early interventions.
In some instances, the jaw is undersized or oversized, which can create crowding or awkward spacing. This can lead to crooked teeth over time as the teeth struggle to fit in. Other problems with oral development, like a jaw twisted out of alignment, can also push the teeth out of position. Injuries to the mouth such as those incurred in an accident can be another cause, as can oral tumors that press against developing teeth.
Poor dental work is also sometimes associated with crooked teeth. If children need extractions or other procedures, they need to be performed with care and consideration. The dentist must think about the child’s long term oral development, and must use appropriate spacers and other devices to protect the teeth. Regular checkups are also important so the dentist can determine if a spacer needs to be adjusted or removed as the child’s mouth grows.
Habits like thumb sucking, pushing at the teeth with the tongue, or chewing on objects like pacifiers can also contribute to crooked teeth. Children may use these habits for comfort under stress. Long-term persistence of these habits can cause problems with oral development. It can help to provide something for the child to transition to that may be less damaging, like concentrating on drawing or squeezing a stress ball during periods of distress.
Untreated, crooked teeth can grow worse over time. They can also be hard to safely clean and scale in routine dental procedures, which can increase the risk of cavities and infections. People with misaligned teeth can receive treatment at any age, although early intervention is preferable, if possible.