Lots of people have crooked teeth. Scientists think that this is chiefly because our jaws and teeth are getting smaller, but the jaws are shrinking faster than the teeth. Crowding can start from a very early age. Many parents are shocked when their child, who had perfectly straight baby teeth, develops crowding once the teeth start to change. This is because the permanent teeth are much larger than the baby teeth and unless the baby teeth were well spaced out, crowding is almost inevitable.
Some theories of why teeth crowd
Some people’s teeth come up straight, then become crowded later on. Based on his observations of Aboriginal teeth, the Australian researcher Raymond Begg put forward the theory that as our diet is so refined, the teeth do not wear down and therefore become crowded, but this idea is not accepted by many scientists. So what is the reason that crowding gets worse with time? The answer is that the shape of your mouth changes with age and this has an effect on the position of your teeth. The front part of the mouth gets wider up to the age of 10, in order to accommodate the larger permanent teeth.
An English academic called Robert Lee, found that the mouth starts to narrow after the age of 13, reducing the amount of space available. The mouth does grow in depth after that age; however the space is not made available to the front teeth as the 14 year molars and then the wisdom teeth take up the room. Furthermore, a Swedish scholar, Arne Bjork, found that the upper and lower jaws keep growing even into the late teens and twenties, but at different rates. This difference in growth may cause the teeth to tip towards each other to maintain the correct contact. A side effect of this is crowding, especially of the lower front teeth. The wisdom teeth come through at this age and are blamed for the crowding where in fact, they are innocent!
An Irish researcher, Margaret Richardson from Belfast, has shown that there is no connection between wisdom teeth erupting and the occurrence of tooth crowding. As you go through your twenties and early thirties, your face changes and so do the pressures on your teeth, this may push them towards each other and cause dental crowding.
Can I prevent crowding?
So, your teeth are at the risk of crowding from a very early age and the risk increases as you get older. Can anything be done to prevent crowding? If the jaws are significantly crowded then extraction of teeth together with the appropriate brace is the current answer. Unfortunately we do not understand enough about the variability between persons in order to be able to predict the amount and type of crowding a person may develop. The only guaranteed way of keeping your teeth kept straight, whether or not you have had braces, is to wear a retainer for as long as you wish to keep your teeth straight, or in other words, lifelong. The advantages and disadvantages of the different types of retainer will be dealt with in a subsequent post.
Concerned about your teeth crowding?
Camilleri Clinic is a leading dental clinic in Malta offering orthodontic treatment by fully qualified orthodontists. Contact us for more details about treatment options available.