Crooked teeth and how to fix them

How do healthy teeth become crooked? Learn what actually causes crooked teeth, how they can be fixed, and discover modern dentistry’s discrete and affordable solution.

What causes teeth to be crooked?

There are a number of reasons why some children and adults may develop teeth that are crooked or perhaps misaligned in some way:

  • Your mouth could simply be a little small. This can cause your teeth to crowd together and may encourage them to shift position. In fact, some scientists believe that today’s softer, processed food diets may be the reason many populations seem to be developing smaller jaws – which leave less room for a full set of teeth.

  • Your upper and lower jaws may be different sizes. This can result in an overbite when the upper jaw is longer or an underbite when the lower jaw protrudes. In either case, this may suggest your upper and lower teeth are, to some extent, out of alignment. Your dentist may refer to this misalignment as malocclusion or a misaligned bite.

  • Childhood oral health problems such as excessive thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, prolonged use of a baby-dummy, or continued bottle feeding when this is no longer necessary.

  • Insufficient dental care, such as a lack of regular check-ups, can mean that issues such as cavities and/or gum disease are not picked up at an early stage. This can mean your teeth become misaligned and grow unnoticed at a slanted angle.

  • Ill-fitting dental work e.g. crowns and fillings.

  • Gum disease e.g. gingivitis

  • Early loss of baby teeth or permanent teeth.

  • Mouth or facial injuries, tumors in the mouth or jaw region.

If your child has crooked baby teeth, it does not automatically mean that permanent teeth will also be crooked. Crooked or crowded teeth can also be a trait inherited from a parent.

Sometimes crooked teeth may interfere with daily life – for example, when chewing your food. But some slight misalignment is very common. So don’t feel under any pressure to correct every single imperfection. 

Can crooked teeth affect your dental health?

Crooked teeth and/or misaligned bites may sometimes cause a range of issues affecting your dental health:

  • An inability to chew properly may cause pain and discomfort and also lead to later digestive problems.

  • Excess wear can not only directly affect your teeth and gums, it could also result in muscular jaw strain, TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) and cracked teeth.

  • Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can cause excess wear and result in headaches.

  • Speech problems can sometimes occur if your teeth are misaligned.

  • Oral hygiene can be affected if proper brushing and flossing of teeth become difficult. This can leave you more prone to developing periodontal diseases affecting your teeth and gums, as well as the underlying bone structures which support your teeth.

  • Mouth sores, plaque build-up, sore gums and tooth loss. 

Over time, any sustained build-up of oral bacteria is likely to have implications for your dental health. For some who may also be feeling particularly self-conscious about their appearance, crooked teeth could begin to have a broader impact on their self-esteem and social interactions. However, as many popular models and celebrities have shown, teeth that are not perfectly aligned can also be regarded as distinctive and characterful. 

Remember that, in some countries, a certain degree of dental misalignment is actively encouraged. Japanese dentists, for example, are often called upon to create special ‘yaeba’ teeth for women. This is because a slight element of dental imperfection is now regarded as a desirable ‘look’ that offers a social and cultural advantage: young Japanese men consider such a person far more natural and approachable. 

Why do adult teeth become crooked?

Many adults will notice their teeth are gradually becoming more crooked. One of the dental changes which commonly occurs as we grow older is a tendency for your teeth to drift forwards in your mouth. The most likely causes of shifting teeth in adults are:

  • Lower jaw issues: Lower jaw growth continues through adulthood. The amount of such growth is tiny, occurs over time, and is also accompanied by a shrinking in width. As a result, alignments within your mouth will gradually change. In particular, upper teeth tend to develop wider tooth gaps, while lower teeth tend to become more crowded for space.

  • Teeth grinding & wear: Bruxism (teeth grinding) causes your teeth to wear down. This process can create bite changes of its own.

  • Tooth loss: If you lose teeth and/or have a tooth extracted, this can also affect the forces acting upon your remaining teeth. For instance, removing a tooth from the lower row may cause another tooth from the upper row to drop down towards the vacant space. This can cause a kind of ‘chain reaction’ in which teeth start to become less stable and then begin to move.

  • Peridontal disease: Inflammation of gum tissue can lead to infection. This, in turn, can then affect the bone structures supporting your teeth. As these start to weaken, all your teeth can start to shift, which may also cause tooth gaps to appear. 

  • Ageing: With advancing years, your lips and facial skin change, which often increases the pressure on your teeth. This adds to other factors mentioned here and thus intensifies the tendency for teeth to drift forward in your mouth through the adult years.

What are the benefits of fixing crooked or misaligned teeth?

Where alignment problems are relatively minor, any decision about the benefits of fixing crooked or misaligned teeth often involves careful consideration of a number of factors. These may include matters such as funding as well as the broader health benefits of any dental treatments. So here is an overview of the benefits you may expect:

  • Better oral health: Teeth straightening and the correction of dental crowding and bite alignment all help to safeguard prominent teeth and reduce oral health problems. Research published by the Indian Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology in 2020 suggests that those with crooked teeth are at greater risk of developing gum disease, tooth decay, and/or suffering tooth loss.

  • Speech improvements: The Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care reports that crooked teeth may sometimes affect a person’s speech. Whilst this is clearly important for young children still learning how to speak, it can also be critical for the prospects of anyone whose job role depends upon clear and confident verbal communication. 

  • Increased confidence: A research study which appeared in the Journal of Orthodontic Science (2017) reported that young people with crooked teeth seem to exhibit lower self-esteem than their peers – though the effects noted also seemed to track and reflect the severity of misalignment. Nevertheless, in some instances, anxiety and lack of confidence can be an issue. This alone may lead some to opt for the benefits of corrective treatment for personal reasons. 

  • Better cardiac health: According to the American Dental Association, the benefits of correcting misaligned teeth may also include improvements to your cardiac health. This is because persistent oral health problems, particularly gum disease, have the potential to increase your risk of suffering from heart disease.

How do you fix crooked teeth?

The best way to fix crooked teeth is to fit some kind of dental braces designed to gently persuade your teeth to shift into a position of better alignment. There are a variety of options available:

  1. Metal braces: These are fixed to your teeth using a combination of brackets, rubber bands, and wires. Metal braces are a common corrective option that has been in use for many years. Modern dental technology now delivers metal brackets which have evolved to become more comfortable to wear and are sometimes available with bands in custom colours. 

  2. Ceramic braces: These braces are available in clear and neutral, tooth-like colours, which makes them less noticeable than metal braces. Though ceramic braces are designed to function in the same way as metal braces, they are a little less robust and more inclined to show staining. 

  3. Crowns and veneers: These are elegant artificial options designed by cosmetic dentists and made from porcelain or a similar composite material. A crown will cover, cap and protect a damaged tooth underneath, while a veneer is a thin strip of sculpted material (rather like a false nail) that sits in front of your tooth. In each case, the result is to much improve the overall ‘look’ of your teeth. But while your perhaps unsightly original teeth will be hidden from view, there won’t be any attempt to straighten any crooked teeth. 

  4. Aligners: A modern solution made from elastic thermoplastic material, transparent aligners are more comfortable to wear and almost invisible to others. Aligners can be used to correct mild or moderate misalignments in the anterior region at the front of your mouth – those teeth which are visible when you smile. Adults find PlusDent invisible aligners an ultra-convenient option because they can be worn with confidence at work as well as at home.

Whatever treatment option you choose to fix crooked teeth, the final stage of any orthodontic treatment is to wear a stabilising retainer for the period recommended by your dentist. The purpose of any dental retainer is to secure your straightened teeth in their new position until your gums and supporting bone structure have properly adjusted.

To keep your teeth properly aligned, it’s extremely important to wear your dental retainer exactly as advised by your dentist. 

Can you have veneers fitted if your teeth are crooked?

Whether or not you can have veneers fitted if your teeth are crooked is really a matter for a dental professional. If your teeth are only slightly misaligned, there is every chance dental technicians could create veneers that would give the impression your teeth were properly aligned. Done well, veneers are one way to restore the look of your teeth without getting involved in the dental procedures required to straighten crooked teeth. 

How much does it cost to fix crooked teeth?

How much it costs for a private dentist to fix crooked teeth will depend on a number of factors. These include: whether you have any dental insurance plan which might meet some of the cost of dental braces, where you live in the UK, and the precise amount and type of dental work needed to correct any misalignments. 

The cost of metal braces will generally work out around £2,000 to £2,500. Ceramic braces will usually cost a little more and might be available from around £2,000 up to £3,000. 

Using PlusDent aligners to straighten mild to moderately crooked teeth at the front of your mouth is always a budget-friendly option. Costs start from as little as £1,390 for a short treatment, £1,890 for normal treatment, and just £2,190 for complex treatment. 

Do remember that UK NHS (National Health Service) charges for teeth straightening alone start off from around £219. However, this is a strictly non-cosmetic treatment option. So the dentist will attend to your dental health, but nothing more.