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Malocclusion: What Causes Crooked Teeth?

Turn on the TV or look through an online ad, and you’ll be plastered with images of smiles that are bright, white, and, of course, perfectly aligned. We live in a society where flawless smiles are a dime a dozen—but we all know that this just isn’t the reality of things.

Your smile is one of the first things that people will notice about you, and we all know the importance of first impressions. Yet, rarely are people born with perfectly aligned and straight teeth. In fact, a study conducted by the American Association of Orthodontists in 2012 found that more than 30% of all Americans are unhappy with their smile. The biggest culprit? Crooked or misaligned teeth.

straight teeth

What Causes Malocclusion?

There are all sorts of causes of crooked teeth. Here are some of the most common factors that play a role in the shape and overall look of our smiles.


One of the top causes is genetics. For most people, we have as much control over the size, shape, and alignment of our teeth than we do the color of our hair or the tone of our skin. If your parents suffer from dental crowding or crooked teeth, chances are that you, too, will have the same shaped smile.

Genetics also determine the size of your mouth. If your mouth is too small, you’re more likely to have crowded teeth. This can cause other teeth to shift, throwing off the alignment of your smile. A misaligned jaw can also cause issues with your smile—often the culprit for an underbite or overbite.

Oral & Facial Injury

The mouth is prone to all sorts of injuries, especially involving the teeth. In fact, more than 5 million teeth are uprooted each year, with most of these injuries occurring as a result of a sports injury. In some instances, the injury is serious enough to knock teeth out entirely or to cause the jaw to shift. In this instance, the remaining teeth tend to shift to make up for the extra space in the mouth. This causes the smile to become misaligned and imbalanced.

Poor Childhood Habits

Children around the ages of five and six are at the highest risk of developing crooked teeth, especially if bad habits become routine at a young age. During infancy and early toddler years, it’s acceptable for children to suck their thumbs. In fact, this is a natural reaction when a baby is trying to self-soothe or is looking to comfort themselves. However, if this habit continues into the later years of toddlerhood when the permanent teeth are starting to come in, lasting damage to the teeth may occur.

When a child is five or six, prolonged thumb sucking can impact the position of permanent teeth. The habit is known to cause crooked teeth, a misaligned bite, and overcrowding. Prolonged thumb sucking can also impact the shape of the roof of the mouth. This can impact speech, making it harder to pronounce certain letters.

Treating Crooked Teeth

No matter the cause of your crooked teeth, it’s important to find an orthodontist who can work with you to repair and restore your smile. Not only can crooked teeth make you feel insecure about smiling or talking, it can also impact your ability to chew and speak. Undergoing teeth straightening will improve your life in more ways than you can imagine!

Orthodontics Work

When realigning the smile, there are a variety of options that can be used to fix crooked teeth. To determine the best treatment option for you, an orthodontist will pinpoint any underlying conditions, such as a misaligned jaw, to choose the ideal treatment for you.

How Orthodontics Work

Thanks to advances in dental technology, there isn’t just one form of braces available today. Clear aligners and traditional metal braces both work by applying pressure to the teeth over a period of time to slowly reposition them. Braces are usually worn for 18-24 months, but this timeframe can change, depending on the severity of your malocclusion.

With traditional braces, brackets are bonded to the teeth. The brackets are attached to wires and/or orthodontic bands. Both the bands and wires apply pressure to the teeth to slowly move them. Clear braces, also known as clear aligners, work by using a new pair of aligners each 1 to 2 weeks. . The aligners are designed to incrementally shift and turn the teeth. Some patients require tooth-colored resin that’s applied to the teeth to act as brackets to further reposition them.

Today, clear aligners are the top choice for most patients, especially adults who want straighter teeth without the look of traditional braces. In fact, the well-known company Invisalign has found that more than 2.6 million patients undergo orthodontic treatment each year. Unfortunately, not all patients are eligible for clear aligners. Severe misalignment and other issues may require traditional braces or other treatment options to be used.

Preventing Crooked Smiles

While we don’t have full control over our teeth, there are things we can do to prevent malocclusion. Preventing a crooked smile starts in our early years. From a young age all the way through adulthood, we should all practice healthy dental hygiene such as daily brushing and flossing. Other simple changes, such as not sleeping on your stomach or not biting your nails, can also keep your teeth from becoming crooked. Other tips for preventing a crooked smile include:

  • Quitting oral fixations like chewing a pen or using toothpicks excessively
  • Fixing gaps in your teeth
  • Having your wisdom teeth removed
  • Breathing through your nose vs. through your mouth

Family Orthodontist

It’s also important to maintain your straight smile after wearing braces. Since teeth shift over time, you must wear a retainer, especially at night, to keep your teeth in place. Neglecting to wear a retainer can cause your teeth to shift.

Your Family Orthodontist

At Labbe Family Orthodontics, our patients are more than patients, they’re family. We treat each of our patients with care and kindness, as we want everyone to have a relaxing visit. If you’re ready to straighten your teeth and make your crooked smile a thing of the past, we’re here to help! As devoted practitioners of family orthodontics, we look forward to treating patients of all ages, including children.

Make today the day you work towards the smile of your dreams. Contact our office at (410) 267-7300 to schedule an appointment. We look forward to restoring your smile and your confidence!



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