What is dental crowding?

CROWDED teeth, also called overcrowding or dental crowding, is when there is not enough space in the mouth for permanent teeth to grow in straight.

As a result, people with this form of malocclusion (misalignment) have crooked teeth that overlap each other.

Overcrowding can either be mild, moderate or severe, depending on the patient’s jaw size and how many teeth they have:

• Mild crowding: Mild dental crowding is when one anterior tooth in the upper or lower jaw is slightly rotated.

• Moderate crowding: Moderate dental crowding is when two to three anterior teeth overlap in the upper or lower jaw.

• Severe crowding: Severe dental crowding is when most anterior teeth in the upper or lower jaw overlap.

What causes crowded teeth?

The cause of dental crowding can be due to a variety of factors, including:

• If teeth are larger than the jaw (genetics), the teeth do not fit correctly and tend to overlap or twist.

• Some people are born with a smaller jaw (genetics), which can result in dental crowding as permanent teeth grow in.

• If you lose a primary tooth too early, other teeth can move into the empty space.

• Permanent teeth do not erupt properly due to over-retained baby teeth. This situation occurs when teeth loosen but then tighten back into the gums, preventing the eruption of permanent teeth. A dentist typically extracts over-retained baby teeth to allow for the proper eruption of permanent teeth. Not removing them commonly results in dental crowding.

How to fix crowded teeth

The type of treatment depends on the patient’s age and whether the dental crowding is mild, moderate, or severe. Common teeth-straightening options for crooked teeth include:

• Dental braces, which are the most common treatment option for overcrowding, especially in children. People get braces for both aesthetic and functional reasons (not only to correct smiles, but also to realign the jaws).

• Clear aligners, such as Invisalign, are a type of orthodontic treatment that corrects crowded teeth and other forms of misalignment. They are a virtually invisible alternative to braces and cost about the same. Treatment consists of a series of removable aligners, and you must replace them every two weeks. Patients wear the aligners for about 22 hours each day for about 20 weeks to correct even mild malalignment.

• Dental veneers can be used to treat moderate cases of dental crowding in adults. They are thin, customised shells of tooth-coloured materials that fit over the front of teeth to improve their appearance. A dentist bonds the shells to your teeth to change their length, size, colour, shape, and function.


Risk factors of untreated dental crowding

Not only do straight teeth improve your appearance and self-esteem, they also have oral health benefits. For example, straight teeth are easier to clean, brush, and floss between, which leads to better oral hygiene. Thus, you are less likely to develop cavities and other oral infections.

If you have moderate to severe teeth crowding, you are more likely to develop tooth decay and gum disease. This is because teeth that overlap are more difficult to clean on a daily basis. Poor oral hygiene can also lead to general health complications over time, such as a weakened immune system and heart disease (rare).

Dr Sharon Robinson, DDS has offices at Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, located at shop #5, Winchester Business Centre, 15 Hope Road, Kingston 10. Dr Robinson is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Oral Health Sciences. She may be contacted at 876-630-4710. Like their Facebook page, Dental Place Cosmetix Spa.

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