As pediatric dentists, it is our job to guide you and your family through your child’s oral health and development. We strongly encourage bringing your child into our office for exams and cleanings, so we can monitor their oral health and keep an eye out for potential problems and keep your child’s teeth growing healthy and strong.
Sometimes, as your child’s permanent teeth begin to erupt, you may find that there is not enough space for the new teeth to develop. As they grow, teeth may twist, rotate, overlap, or grow in unusual alignment. This is a common condition we see and treat in the office known as overcrowding.
What is Overcrowding?
Overcrowding, also known as dental crowding or crowded teeth, is a common dental condition that refers to when teeth are unable to grow straight due to a lack of space. When this occurs, your child’s teeth may press together, overlap, and twist out of alignment with some teeth being pushed behind or in front of other teeth.
There are three degrees in which overcrowding is diagnosed:
Mild – Mild overcrowding refers to only one tooth being affected and is slightly rotated in the upper or lower jaw.
Moderate – Moderate overcrowding is when two or three teeth rotate or overlap in the upper or lower jaw.
Severe – Severe overcrowding means several or the majority of the teeth overlap in the upper or lower jaw.
Teeth should grow straight without crowding or gaps, but we know that is not always the cause. Here are some common factors that can lead to overcrowding:
- Abnormal tooth growth
- Excess teeth
- Genetics may cause teeth to be larger than your jaw can allow, or genetics may lead to a smaller jaw than average
- Losing primary teeth too early may cause other teeth to shift into the space
- Trauma and injury can fracture the jaw or lead to missing teeth which can cause teeth to shift in the healing process
If you are unsure of your child’s teeth, there are some signs to look for that may indicate overcrowding, including:
- Crooked teeth at unusual angles
- Difficulty brushing and flossing
- Jaw pain
- Overlapping teeth
- Trouble biting or chewing
Often overcrowding can be related to malocclusions or misalignments of the jaw which can lead to jaw pain, headaches, and possible temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD).
Does overcrowding need to be treated?
If left untreated, overcrowding can lead to a variety of oral health problems:
Overcrowded teeth that overlap or twist against other teeth can make it difficult to brush and floss properly, making it easy for plaque and bacteria to build up in the mouth. This increases the risk of tooth decay, cavities, and bad breath.
If plaque and bacteria do build up in an overcrowded mouth, this may lead to the development of gum disease. Signs of gum disease include a bad taste in the mouth, bleeding gums, loose teeth, swollen red gums, and gums that pull away from the teeth.
Failure to correct crowding during childhood can lead to the jaw becoming misaligned in adulthood which can cause headaches, jaw pain, and potentially lead to jaw dysfunctions.
Overcrowded teeth can also cause speech difficulties as they can interfere with the ease and clarity of pronouncing certain words, this will depend on the location and severity of the overcrowding. Dental crowding may also cause whistling when talking as air moves through the teeth.
What are my treatment options?
The treatment for overcrowding will depend on the patient’s age and condition. Common treatment options for overcrowding include palate expanders, braces, aligners, extractions, and retainers.
Palate expanders are used to widen the roof of your child’s mouth to help increase the space for teeth to grow properly and correct improper bites.
Braces can be used to guide teeth into their proper alignment.
Aligners, including clear ones such as Invisalign, can correct mild cases of overcrowding. These options are an alternative to traditional braces and are removable.
In some cases, tooth extraction may be necessary for overcrowded teeth, but this is often only in cases of excess teeth. Once the tooth is extracted, we can discuss the best treatment method for you to help guide your teeth into proper alignment.
Retainers are often used after treatment for overcrowding to ensure your smile stays in place. If your child is given a retainer, be sure to help them maintain proper care and usage.
As pediatric dentists, we strive to provide your family with high-quality care and service. Your child’s comfort and confidence in their smile is important to us and we are here to ensure their smile remains happy and healthy. For more information on overcrowding and how we can help or to schedule a consultation, contact Alameda Pediatric Dentistry today.