If your child has overcrowded teeth, they have a dental condition in which all their teeth don’t align across their upper and/or lower gumline. The affected teeth can overlap or twist within their arches, resulting in functional problems and an abnormal facial appearance.
Overcrowded teeth are one type of malocclusion, a dental condition defined by crooked teeth or a “poor bite.” A bite describes the way your lower and upper teeth align.
In a normal bite, your upper teeth rest slightly forward of your lower teeth when your mouth is closed or at rest. In this position, the points of your molars fit in the grooves of the opposite molar.
Orthodontics is a specialty area of dentistry that uses fixed and removable dental devices to correct a patient’s bite by treating poorly positioned teeth and misaligned jaws.
Orthodontic treatment requires the services of a dental professional trained in the functional and aesthetic aspects of conditions that cause a poor bite. Orthodontic specialist Staci Brunell, DMD, of Yorktown Pediatric Dentistry in Yorktown Heights, New York, utilizes the most effective and advanced technology to evaluate and treat overcrowded teeth. Dr. Brunell and the team have the expertise necessary to treat your child’s overcrowded teeth for long-term benefits.
How overcrowded teeth occur
Overcrowding is generally related to genetics. The condition tends to run in families, so you may be able to predict the likelihood of your child having overcrowded teeth if you or other relatives have the condition.
Overcrowded teeth occur when there isn’t enough space for adult teeth to erupt in proper alignment. This may be due to any of the following conditions:
- Teeth that are larger than your jaw
- A smaller than normal size jaw
- A misaligned jaw
- Early loss of baby teeth, leaving empty spaces into which other adult teeth shift
- Over-retained baby teeth, which prevents the adult tooth from assuming its proper position
- Bad oral habits like thumb-sucking, pacifier or bottle use, or mouth breathing
- Facial injury
Why treating overcrowded teeth matters
Overcrowded teeth can affect your child’s self-confidence by changing the way they look and interact with others, which can have lifelong disadvantages. Allowing crooked teeth to remain untreated can also increase your child’s risk of dental problems and affect their quality of life.
Overcrowded teeth can be difficult to keep clean and free of cavity-causing bacteria, increasing your child’s risk of bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease, the most common cause of tooth loss. Problems also arise when overcrowded teeth exert abnormal wear-and-tear on your entire mouth. Consequences can include cracked teeth, TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder, headaches, and improper chewing.
In addition to producing a crooked smile, overcrowded teeth can affect the shape of your child’s jawline, making their lips look uneven or one side of their face appear higher than the other. The effect can interfere with normal speech and articulation, which can impact your child’s ability to communicate and establish social relationships.
Treating overcrowded teeth with orthodontics
Orthodontic treatments correct overcrowded teeth with pressure that moves your teeth into desired positions over time. Each patient’s orthodontic treatment, devices, and timeline vary according to their needs.
Most adolescents can achieve improvement of crowded teeth in about 12 to 18 months, though total treatment time, including wearing post-treatment retainers, can take years.
Depending on your child’s age and condition, Dr. Brunell may advise one of the following orthodontic treatments:
Traditional metal braces
Traditional metal braces use metal wires and brackets to apply constant gentle pressure to your teeth. The small brackets are cemented to your teeth, while a flexible wire across each arch is periodically tightened to move your teeth and jaws. The wires are secured to the brackets with small rubber bands or elastic ties.
Technological advances have resulted in lighter and smaller brackets that are less noticeable and more comfortable than the metal braces used in the past. Their durability, affordability, and permanent placement are appropriate for children with parental supervision of proper dental hygiene.
Invisalign® clear aligners
Invisalign® treatment involves the use of clear, removable aligners. Treatment involves changing the aligners every week or two with a new set that moves the treated teeth further into their desired positions until you reach the last set.
Since your child progresses by changing out the aligners, Invisalign typically requires fewer in-office visits. While Invisalign aligners can treat most types of overcrowded teeth, they may not be appropriate for some extreme conditions.
Patients of all ages prefer Invisalign aligners because they are virtually invisible when in place. Since aligners are individually sized for each patient, they stay put and don’t attract attention by slipping.
An Invisalign treatment plan typically requires 20-22 hours of wear daily. Patients remove the aligners to eat and drink. Since the aligners can be removed for brushing and flossing, the treatment also facilitates proper dental hygiene.
Find out more about using orthodontics to treat overcrowded teeth. Book your appointment with Dr. Brunell by calling our office or using our convenient online scheduling tool.