Crowded teeth don’t just influence your appearance. They can also affect your bite, speech, and other aspects of your overall health. But what causes crowded teeth? Knowing the signs and origins of crowded teeth can help you seek the right dental care and address the problem before it gets worse.
According to Blanche Kadjo, BDS, a UK-based dentist, some common signs of dental crowding include:
A telltale sign that your teeth are crowded is when they overlap.
“To most patients, crowded teeth equals crooked teeth. Crowding occurs when the jaws (and dental arches) are too small to allow all the permanent teeth to come in straight. This results in teeth being overlapped and rotated. In some cases, a few teeth may be completely blocked out and remain stuck under the bone,” Brian T. Luong, DMD, MBA, MS, of The Hills Orthodontics, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
It also may be difficult to floss or brush. Your teeth might look twisted and crooked, or they might visibly overlap each other. Over time, you may notice dental health issues related to overlapping teeth, such as cavities between your teeth.
Small Jaw Bones
Human jaw bones are shrinking over evolutionary time, according to a 2017 paper published in Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry. However, teeth are not. This discrepancy can lead to a misfit between teeth and the jaws that hold them—causing crowded teeth, changes in the shape of the face, and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
If you notice problems such as snoring, a jaw that looks very small, or a recessed chin, this may mean you have small jaws that can lead to crowded teeth.
Teeth That Do Not Form a U-Shape
When the teeth are well-aligned, they form a U-shape in both jaws. Crowded teeth make this shape more difficult because the teeth crowd and move one another.
A person might notice that their teeth are not shaped like a “U” at all, or that the normal shape has many jagged edges formed by crowded teeth. In some cases, crooked teeth may be so misaligned that the teeth do not form any real shape at all.
Problems With the Development of Adult Teeth
Sometimes, crowding prevents baby teeth from falling out. Dentists call this phenomenon persistent deciduous teeth.
According to a 2019 case report published in the World Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, a sign of retained baby teeth is when the primary teeth (baby teeth) remain in position while the permanent teeth start to erupt (become visible).
In other cases, some adults grow additional teeth—a phenomenon called supernumerary teeth. These teeth may cause crowding, or worsen a pre-existing problem.
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