As an orthodontist, I see a large number of patients who come through the door that have crooked teeth and want to have a better smile. It always blows me away when some people walk in with perfectly straight teeth and a perfect bite. I tell them that they are one of the lucky few that doesn’t need braces and to count their blessings.
So, for the other 99.999% of us (as least it seems that way), I get the question, why are my teeth crooked? It’s a rather simple question but there are numerous reasons why teeth become crooked from the way we are made (our genetics), to jaw problems, and some oral diseases (luckily very rare). Genetics plays a huge role in the development of the teeth and jaws and more often than not, if our parents had crooked teeth and small jaws, we will inherit the same problems as well.
Now, I often hear the phrase an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In other words, can crooked teeth be prevented? In situations such as underbites, overbites, and crooked teeth, since these are part of our genetic makeup, these situations cannot be prevented. Orthodontics will be needed to correct these jaw discrepancies and tooth alignment issues. There are, however, habits and situations that can lead to these conditions. For example, when a child is young and sucks their thumb for extended periods of time, this can make the top jaw narrow and even push out the top front teeth causing them to stick out (buck teeth). Another example is if a child has a habit of tongue thrusting (pushing their tongue between their teeth when swallowing). This thrusting pressure will push the front teeth out causing them to stick out. Pacifier use that continues after the age of 2 can change the shape of the jaws and cause tooth problems as well. Luckily, these are all habits that can be altered or ceased simply by working with your child to stop sucking their thumb or using a pacifier. A tongue thrust habit often requires the help of a myofunctional/speech therapist along with orthodontic intervention.
There are situations in which baby teeth need to be removed early due to large cavities or knocking the tooth out accidently. In this case, since a baby tooth is lost early, the space that the baby tooth was taking up may be lost early as well. Adult teeth grow underneath baby teeth and if a baby tooth is lost early, the adult tooth underneath it will shift causing crooked teeth. That’s why it is important that you have your child examined every six months by a dentist/pediatric dentist to ensure that their teeth are healthy and that their adult teeth are coming in correctly.
Dr. Benitez and the Dallas Orthodontics staff suggest that parents bring their children to our office around the age of seven to examine the adult teeth eruption and to check on any potential problems of eruption. If problems are discovered, Dr. Benitez firmly believes in taking care of issues early on before they become a bigger problem down the road. Early treatment of problems can also affect the growth of the jaws, which can help adult teeth move into proper positions.