Crooked, misaligned teeth are very common. Many children and adults have them. If your teeth are crooked, you shouldn’t feel like you have to straighten them.

Teeth that aren’t perfectly aligned are unique to you and can add personality and charm to your smile.

However, if you’re unhappy with the way your teeth look, or if they’re causing health or speech issues, you can have them realigned.

Keep reading to find out why teeth come in crooked, the health problems they can sometimes cause, and the techniques used to align them.

Both baby teeth and permanent teeth can come in crooked, or they can become crooked. Baby teeth sometimes move into crooked positions because they’re too small to fill the amount of gum space allocated to them.

Prolonged habits, such as sucking on a pacifier or thumb, can also cause baby teeth to become pushed out or crooked. Heredity and genetics may also play a role.

Having crooked baby teeth doesn’t mean your child will have crooked permanent teeth. However, if baby teeth grow in crowded together, the permanent teeth may be crowded as well.

If trauma to the mouth or tooth decay causes one or more baby teeth to fall out sooner than they would naturally, the permanent teeth that follow may grow out of the gums slanted rather than straight.

Other issues affecting baby teeth that can also affect permanent teeth include:

Jaw size

The modern diet of soft, processed food that many people consume requires less chewing than the foods eaten by our early ancestors.

This change has altered our collective jaw size, making it smaller. Scientists believe that our evolved, shorter jaw may be responsible for crowded, crooked, and misaligned teeth.

Poor myofunctional habits

Myofunctional habits are repetitive behaviors that affect the muscles or functions of the mouth or face. They include:

Malocclusion (misaligned jaw)

Your upper teeth are meant to fit slightly over your lower teeth, with the points of your upper molars fitting into the grooves of your lower molars. When this alignment doesn’t occur, malocclusion results.

Common misalignments include overbite and underbite. If you have an overbite, your upper front teeth protrude out farther than your lower front teeth.

If you have an underbite, your lower front teeth jut out farther than your upper front teeth. Poor myofunctional habits can cause a malocclusion to occur.

Genetics and heredity

If one or both of your parents had crowded or crooked teeth, it’s possible that you will, too. You may also inherit an overbite or underbite from your parents.

Poor dental care

Not having your teeth checked at least annually by a dentist can sometimes mean that problems, such as gum disease and cavities, go untreated. This can lead to crooked teeth and other dental health problems.

Poor nutrition

Poor nutrition, especially in children, can lead to tooth decay and poor dental development, which are potential precursors to crooked teeth.

Facial injury

A hit to the face or mouth can knock teeth out of place, resulting in one or more crooked teeth.

In some instances, crooked teeth can affect your quality of life. For example, misaligned teeth may affect your ability to chew, causing you pain every time you eat.

In addition, some people may feel so self-conscious about their crooked teeth that they stop smiling or avoid social situations.

Other health issues that crooked teeth may cause include:

  • Periodontal disease. It can be hard to clean in between crooked teeth. This can result in tooth decay and gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to periodontitis, a more serious infection that can damage bones and teeth.
  • Chewing and digestion. Crooked teeth can also interfere with proper chewing, which may cause digestion problems.
  • Excess wear. Crooked teeth can also cause excess wear and tear on the teeth, gums, and jaw muscles, resulting in cracked teeth, jaw strain, temporomandibular joint disorder, and chronic headaches.
  • Speech difficulties. If your teeth are misaligned, they can affect the way you articulate sound, causing problems with speech.
  • Self-esteem. Unhappiness with your physical appearance can lead to a lack of self-esteem and social avoidance.

The decision to straighten crooked teeth is a personal one. For many, a lack of funds or dental health insurance may affect a decision to straighten teeth. Health issues may also factor into a decision.

If your crooked teeth make you feel self-conscious, that may also be a reason to straighten them. But remember, imperfect teeth can be memorable and unique.

Many models successfully flaunt their not-so-perfect teeth. In Japan, slightly crooked canine teeth (yaeba) are a desired attribute thought to enhance attractiveness, especially in women.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Crooked teeth can be memorable and unique. Many models successfully flaunt their not-so-perfect teeth. And in Japan, slightly crooked canine teeth (yaeba) are a desired attribute thought to enhance attractiveness, especially in women.

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If you’ve decided that straightening your teeth is the right choice for you, there are several alternatives you can discuss with a dentist or orthodontist.

Braces are a great option for people of any age, provided that their teeth and gums are strong enough to hold them. Braces may be an especially good choice for children, who still have malleable, flexible gums and bone tissues.

Treatment can take anywhere between two to three years depending on the type of braces you choose, and what you need to have done. Teeth-straightening surgery is another option to consider, and typically takes less time to achieve desired results.

Read on to learn about the different types of braces you can choose from, as well as surgical options.

Metal braces

Fixed metal braces are attached to the teeth with brackets, bands, and flexible wire. These braces may be a better choice for someone with more complex dental alignment issues.

Sometimes, headgear is required in addition to fixed braces. Headgear is typically only worn at night.

Metal braces have come a long way since their early days. They now use smaller brackets and less metal. They’re also more comfortable than they used to be. They even come with multicolored rubber bands that you can choose to match your personality.

According to Authority Dental, metal braces typically cost between $3,000 and $7,500 depending on the amount of work you need done, where you live, and whether you have an insurance plan that will help cover costs.

Ceramic braces

Ceramic braces and the archwires that connect them are clear or tooth-colored so they don’t stand out as much as metal brackets.

The straightening process is the same as metal brackets, although ceramic brackets are prone to staining and break easily. They also cost a bit more — between $3,500 and $8,000 — depending on your location, the work needed, and your insurance coverage.

Invisible braces

Invisible braces, such as Invisalign, are nearly invisible. They’re meant to be worn by teens and adults only.

The clear plastic aligners are custom-made to fit your mouth. They fit over each tooth like a mouth guard, and are removed and replaced twice monthly. This option isn’t recommended for severe tooth alignment correction.

Invisible braces may also take longer to straighten teeth than traditional braces. They cost between $3,500 and $8,500, depending on what needs to be done, your location, and your insurance coverage.

Many providers of this treatment allow for monthly payment plan options. The Invisalign product is also eligible to be purchased with tax-free health-savings account dollars.

Lingual braces

The lingual surface is the side of your teeth that faces your tongue. Lingual braces are another form of invisible braces. They’re similar to traditional metal braces except that they attach to the back sides of your teeth.

Lingual braces aren’t for everyone. They’re expensive, costing between $5,000 and $13,000, and hard to clean. They’re also not typically recommended for severely misaligned or crooked teeth. These types of braces may take longer to work, and be harder to get used to wearing.

Teeth-straightening surgery

Surgical procedures for straightening teeth are another option. They may be a way to lessen the amount of time you need to wear braces.

Your orthodontist might suggest a minor surgical procedure designed to reposition the bones and gums that help hold your teeth in place.

They might also recommend a more involved procedure designed to realign your jaw. This is called orthognathic surgery. This type of surgery might be recommended if your teeth have affected your speech or chewing ability.

Your out-of-pocket cost for these procedure will be determined by the type of surgery you have, your location, and your health insurance.

Your dentist may recommend that you see a specialist, called an orthodontist. Your mouth, teeth, and jaw will be examined and your bite assessed.

Your orthodontist will want to know about your symptoms, including any popping sounds that you hear when opening or closing your mouth, and any physical discomfort you have while chewing or at other times.

X-rays of your mouth will be taken, and a mold of your teeth will be made.

If you need braces, they will be custom-made for you and put on at a later appointment.

Crooked teeth are a common problem experienced by many children, teens, and adults. They don’t require treatment unless they’re causing health problems or self-esteem issues.

The decision to correct crooked teeth is a personal one. If cost is an issue, talk to your dentist. Programs, such as Smiles Change Lives, can help.