Nature does an amazing job with our bodies and that includes our teeth. Baby teeth usually start coming in before our first birthday and by age three you have 20 baby teeth – 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom. Baby teeth usually come into place very nicely. Most young kids have straight teeth. Around the age of six or seven, most kids will start to lose their baby teeth and the adult teeth start coming in. Various problems can develop or become noticeable as the teeth and jaws develop.
Ideally, your adult teeth come in as a nice broad arch form that gives you a wide smile that looks great, gives lots of room for your tongue and breathing, and one that supports your lips. You want the upper and lower teeth to fit together in a way that supports each other and makes chewing comfortable and efficient. A good fit of your teeth is also gentler on your teeth and jaw joints.
However, when the natural process doesn’t work perfectly, orthodontic problems can occur, such as:
The most common problem is crowding – not enough room for the teeth to come into nice alignment. Sometimes that crowding makes one or two teeth fall out of alignment, but it always involves your whole mouth – everything’s connected. What we call the arch form of the teeth – that nice broad arc that nature wants, doesn’t always form properly.
Gaps Between the Teeth
The opposite problem can also happen – spaces between the teeth. This can be due to the position of the teeth or the size of the teeth, or both. Some people have teeth that are too small for the size of their jaws. So those are the space issues.
Overbite, Underbite & Crossbite
Now we’ll move onto the fit of your teeth. You have upper and lower teeth and they’re supposed to fit together in a certain way – like two sets of gears. Problems can develop in this fit.
Front to back fit problems can be the most obvious. The upper teeth and jaw can be too far forward or the lower teeth and jaw too far back. People may call this buck teeth. The opposite problem is an underbite – the upper teeth and jaw behind the lower teeth and jaw.
Another alignment issue is related to width. The upper teeth or arch form is supposed to be wider than the lower making the upper teeth outside of the lower teeth. A narrower upper arch or jaw gives you what we call a crossbite – upper teeth on the inside of the lower. This is often related to crowding in the upper teeth as well – narrower jaws give you less room for your teeth.
You can also have an asymmetry of the upper and lower teeth with the middle of the upper and lower teeth not lining up. Teeth can be crooked in the vertical fit department. This shows up especially in the front teeth. A deep overbite occurs when the upper and lower teeth grow past one another too far – like a pair of scissors. This excess overlap – up and down – can be uncomfortable and lead to more wear and tear on your teeth. The opposite can happen where the upper and lower teeth can’t come together vertically. They remain apart even when your back teeth are together. This makes cutting through food more difficult.
Some issues can be specific to one or two teeth. Impaction is when a tooth doesn’t come into the right spot and becomes stuck in the gum. This is very common with wisdom teeth of course because our jaws just don’t grow big enough at the back. But it can happen to other teeth as well. Upper eye teeth are the next most common teeth to be impacted and they usually get stuck in the roof of your mouth when they do this.
It’s not uncommon to be missing a tooth or several teeth. About 5% of us are missing at least one adult tooth – it never forms. Again this is most common for a wisdom tooth. Not a bad thing since most of us don’t have the room for them to come in to become useful teeth. But other teeth can be missing as well and that can cause real issues for you and your smile. Unfortunately the next most common tooth to be missing is what we call the lateral incisor, which is the smaller front tooth next to the big front ones.
Occasionally a person can have an extra tooth and that can disrupt other teeth from coming in as well.
Finally a person can develop problems if a tooth or several teeth are lost and not replaced. Teeth around the missing one can tip and move in ways that change the alignment and the fit of the upper and lower teeth.
These are some of the orthodontic problems that can occur. They can occur in combination or there may be other underlying issues as well. For information on your smile, come in for an assessment and consultation!