WebMD Logo Icon
WebMD Connect to Care helps you find services to manage your health. When you purchase any of these services, WebMD may receive a fee. WebMD does not endorse any product, service or treatment referred to on this page. X

What Is Proper Teeth Alignment, Anyway?

By John McGuire
Teeth are crooked or they are straight, right? So what do people mean by “proper teeth alignment”?

A beautiful smile is a great reason to see an orthodontist, but proper dental alignment is more than just straight teeth. Here’s more information about why proper teeth alignment is so important and how to achieve your best smile.   

How Should Your Teeth Align?

“Harmonious function of the teeth, muscles, and temporomandibular joint” is the goal of proper teeth alignment, Dustin M. Deering, DDS, who practices cosmetic dentistry in Encinitas, Calif., tells WebMD Connect to Care. Your teeth should “come together simultaneously and evenly throughout the mouth,” Deering says. This harmonious, symmetric functioning of your teeth is the broad goal of orthodontic treatment, such as braces and clear dental aligners.

Deering says “proper alignment is determined by the size and position of the supporting skeletal structure, and then, more specifically, a tooth’s size, shape, and position in the face and mouth.” When this alignment is off, there is a problem with your “bite.”

Bite problems, if untreated, can have serious consequences, including tooth decay, gum disease, and even speech problems, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. Their list of the most common bite problems include the following:

  • Crossbite: when your upper teeth come together inside your lower teeth (posterior crossbite), or when your lower teeth come together inside your upper teeth (anterior crossbite)
  • Underbite: when your lower jaw sticks out further than your upper jaw
  • Open Bite: when your front teeth come together but your back teeth do not (posterior open bite), or your back teeth come together but your front teeth do not (anterior open bite)
  • Deep bite: when the front teeth on your upper jaw cover your lower teeth too much
  • Crowding: when there’s not enough space for all of your teeth
  • Spacing: when there’s too much space between your teeth
  • Protrusion: when your front teeth stick out too far (“buck teeth”)

If you have any of these problems, you should consider seeing an orthodontist, a dentist who specializes in bite problems.   

Dental Alignment Solutions That Can Help

Common tools to bring teeth into proper alignment include braces and clear dental aligners, according to the American Academy of Orthodontists. Dental aligners work for many people, but braces may be the better choice for others.

While traditional braces use metal brackets and wires, there are more modern options to minimize the visibility of braces, such as using tooth-colored ceramic brackets or placing the braces behind your teeth (lingual braces).  

Clear dental aligners, sometimes called invisible aligners for teeth, are popular because they are less noticeable than traditional braces. They are also removable for eating and cleaning, but they typically must be worn for at least 22 hours a day to be effective. 

Start Your Journey to a More Confident Smile Today!

Straightening your teeth can be easy and affordable. Find out how to get started today. WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.