Crowded teeth can occur at any age, resulting in teeth which are misaligned to some degree. This can affect oral health as well as appearance, so dentists may recommend correcting crowded teeth in children. Cosmetic dentistry for crowded or overlapping teeth is also common among adults; treatment options include veneers, Invisalign, and other types of braces.
Before you make the decision about how to go about fixing your crowded teeth, you can read this guide we’ve put together about the options for both children and adults. We will share with you:
- Causes of crowded teeth
- Problems that result from overcrowded teeth
- Ways to fix your crowded teeth
- Answers to some common questions about overcrowding
Both the upper and lower teeth can require straightening if they are crowded, but treatment is often relatively simple. Read on for all the information you’ll need if you have crowded bottom or top teeth.
Fixed metal braces aren't the only option if you want to straighten up your smile! Invisalign's clear aligners are almost impossible to spot and work for 90% of cases.
Take Invisalign's free Smile Assessment to find out if you're eligible right now, or keep reading for more details of this and other ways to fix crowded teeth.
Table of contents
- 1 What are some overlapping and crowded teeth causes?
- 2 Do crowded teeth cause problems?
- 3 Fixing crowded teeth
- 4 Conclusion
- 5 FAQs
- 5.1 Do I need teeth removed for crowded teeth treatments?
- 5.2 How do braces work on crowded teeth?
- 5.3 How long does Invisalign take for crowded teeth?
- 5.4 What are the best braces for treating overcrowding?
- 5.5 How do I fix crowded teeth at home?
- 5.6 What will my teeth look like after treatment?
- 5.7 Why are my bottom teeth crowding after braces treatment?
- 5.8 How can you fix crowded teeth without braces?
What are some overlapping and crowded teeth causes?
There are quite a few reasons that people encounter crowded teeth problems. Some of the most common are:
- Thumb and dummy sucking
- An underdeveloped jaw bone
- Different sized teeth
- Irregular eruption of permanent teeth
- Cleft lip and palate issues
- Having extra teeth
- Getting older
Most of these issues can be spotted in children; however, overcrowded teeth problems tend to get worse with age. As we grow older our faces are constantly changing, including the jaw. The teeth, especially the lower teeth, are likely to move around and start to become crooked or even overlap, so it's common for adults to want to fix crowded bottom teeth.
One thing that does not cause overcrowding is the eruption of wisdom teeth. Although third molars can cause many problems as they come through, research has shown that they don't exert enough force on the other teeth to alter their position.
Do crowded teeth cause problems?
If your teeth feel crowded, overlap, or look out of line, this can lead to problems such as:
- An increase in the build-up of plaque and bacteria because of difficulty cleaning between teeth
- Accelerated tooth decay
- Gum disease, or gingivitis
- Unusual wear patterns on your teeth
- Speech problems
- Low self esteem
These oral hygiene problems combined with the unhappiness you might feel about not having straight teeth may well lead you to seek treatment for crowded teeth.
Crowded teeth are not just a cosmetic issue. They create challenges for proper oral hygiene and can make it hard to brush and floss properly. As a result, crowded teeth make it easier for plaque, tartar, and harmful bacteria to accumulate in your mouth. Eventually, this can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
Crowded teeth can also get worse over time. Though it varies from case to case, almost all cases of crowded teeth will worsen with age leading to more oral health complications as you get older. Poor oral hygiene can also lead to general health complications over time, like a weakened immune system and heart disease. Furthermore, straight teeth improve appearance and self-esteem.
Dr. Shane S. Porter
Fixing crowded teeth
There is a range of options of for fixing crowded top teeth, bottom teeth, or both. Which one is suitable for you will depend on the severity of the crowding and how much you are willing to spend to fix your teeth.
The NHS provides free treatment with braces to fix crowded teeth in children, provided the overcrowding is severe enough for the treatment to be deemed medically necessary. Where only minor crowding is present, however, private treatment may be the only option. You can read more about the NHS eligibility criteria in our guide to braces for children.
Because the NHS doesn’t cover cosmetic dentistry, crowded teeth treatment for adults will usually need to be done privately. There may be some exceptions for the most severe cases which weren't treated in childhood, for whatever reason.
Let's go through the various treatment options for teeth overcrowding in adults and children, along with the pros and cons of each. You'll find information about costs in the table a little further down.
But first – would you like to see what you might look like with your crowded teeth fixed? Use Invisalign's SmileView tool to get a free smile preview right now, even if you're not an Invisalign patient!
The first thing that probably comes to mind when you think about fixing crowded teeth is braces. It's true that this is the most common treatment, particularly for more severe overcrowding cases where the teeth overlap, but there are different types of braces to consider.
Fixed braces are metal or ceramic brackets that are bonded to your teeth and connected by a metal wire. They work by putting pressure on your teeth to slowly and gently move them around your mouth. The benefit of ceramic braces is that they are clear or tooth-coloured, making them much less noticeable. People with crowded teeth might need to have separators placed between certain teeth to make space for their braces to be fitted.
Children receiving free NHS treatment will only be offered metal braces; any other styles must be paid for privately.
Does Invisalign work for crowded teeth?
It's possible to use invisible braces such as Invisalign for crowded teeth, too. These systems use a series of clear plastic aligners, usually changed every two weeks, to move your teeth in small increments. Treatment with Invisalign for crowded front teeth can be over reasonably quickly; the Invisalign Lite system is designed for mild alignment problems and typically takes 6-8 months.
For more moderate cases of overcrowding, invisible braces treatment might take 18 months or more.
Because aligner braces are clear and are made to fit perfectly over your teeth, no matter how long you need them for, most people won’t notice them.
These braces work for about 90% of orthodontic cases, but the other 10% might need fixed braces instead. To learn more, read our article: does Invisalign work?
And, to find out whether you're a suitable candidate for Invisalign, you can take a free online Smile Assessment. You'll get your answer as soon as you submit your details – it only takes a couple of minutes.
You'll need to visit an orthodontist to get a firm treatment plan. If you're considering Invisalign, it's easy to find your nearest provider here and book an appointment online.
If your teeth are only mildly crowded and need cosmetic straightening, you could also consider the remote orthodontics company Straight My Teeth. Their aligners look and function just like Invisalign, but they cost just £999. Why? Because you complete the whole process at home – from taking your own impressions to receiving your aligners in the post and checking in via an app so a dentist can monitor your progress.
Sometimes dentists can fix crowded teeth without braces, using retainers. A removable or fixed (lingual) retainer are both options for mild crowding of the teeth.
Some benefits of retainer treatment for overcrowded teeth are:
- This is a much cheaper option than braces
- Lingual retainers are less obvious since they sit behind your teeth
- Fewer dentist visits may be needed
It might be worth asking if a retainer-only course of treatment is possible for you or your child. Read our retainer guide for more information about the options.
Veneers for crowded teeth
Veneers can fix crowded teeth, provided the overcrowding and crookedness isn’t too severe. To have a veneer fitted your dentist will shave away some of the enamel on your existing tooth and apply a composite or porcelain cover. A detailed description of the process and different options can be found in our guide to dental veneers.
Veneers don't actually straighten your teeth; they just make them appear straighter by covering up the crooked parts. From an aesthetic perspective this works really well, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problems that come from having overcrowded teeth. Your other teeth may start crowding because the pressures moving your teeth are still present.
Since veneers for crowded teeth are purely cosmetic, they won’t be covered by the NHS. Also, they aren’t a suitable solution for children with crowded teeth, who will usually be directed to braces.
Another possible crowded teeth treatment for adults is having crowns fitted. This involves removing a lot of the tooth structure and fitting a metal or porcelain cap over the top. We have more dental crown information on another page.
Although crowns can be effective at making your crowded top teeth or bottom teeth look straight again, they are not always the best option. Fitting a crown involves removing a lot of healthy tooth, and a lot of dentists would advise against having this procedure for purely cosmetic reasons.
If you do think this is an option you want to explore, speak with your dentist.
Summary of treatment options
Here is a summary of the treatments we've covered for fixing crowded teeth, including costs:
Don't forget you can see what you'd look like with straighter teeth right now, using Invisalign's free SmileView tool.
As we get older, it's natural for our teeth to become a bit wonky, especially in the lower jaw. Braces, retainers and veneers are all possible treatments if you want to restore your smile.
In children, overcrowding and overlapping teeth can be treated reasonably easily too. Make sure that your child wears their retainer after treatment so that crowding is less likely to re-occur as they get older.
Invisible braces like Invisalign are a popular option for people who want to straighten their teeth without it being obvious to those around them. Remember, you can take a free Smile Assessment to quickly check whether you or your child are eligible for Invisalign. Or, check where your nearest provider is and book an appointment to get a personalised treatment plan.
If you decide not to correct your crowded teeth, you'll need to pay special attention to your oral hygiene in order to minimise your risk of tooth decay. A water flosser may help you keep the irregular spaces between your teeth clean.
Do I need teeth removed for crowded teeth treatments?
It depends on your personal situation. Some people are born with extra teeth – a condition called hyperdontia – and in this case the extra teeth will need to be extracted. Sometimes dentists may want to extract normal teeth (including wisdom teeth) to make room for movement with braces.
Not all dentists approve of removing healthy teeth. Remember that you’re entitled to a second opinion if you or your child are recommended to have teeth removed as part of crowded teeth treatment. A less severe way to make space before applying braces is to file the teeth down slightly, but this isn't always an option.
Here, Dr Loh shares a case where he didn’t need to extract teeth to get great results:
How do braces work on crowded teeth?
Braces attach to your teeth, applying pressure on them and pulling them into the right position. Invisalign invisible braces work in much the same way – they move your teeth into the desired position.
The main difference when using Invisalign for crowded front teeth, as opposed to metal braces, is that they can’t easily be seen, and you can remove them for eating and cleaning. The timescale for treating crowded teeth with braces usually ranges from 6-24 months.
How long does Invisalign take for crowded teeth?
One of the big plus points of using Invisalign for crowded teeth is how quick treatment can be. Mildly crowded teeth can often be treated with Invisalign Lite, which takes just 6-8 months. The severity of your misalignment will determine the exact duration of your treatment.
What are the best braces for treating overcrowding?
When it comes to clear aligners or braces for treating overcrowding, it's all going to come down to the severity of your condition. If you don't want it to be obvious that you're wearing braces, invisible aligners could be the best choice for you. If you are more concerned with cost than appearance, or if your teeth are severely crowded, metal braces may be a better option.
To see whether you're a suitable candidate for treatment with Invisalign, it's quick and easy to take an online Smile Assessment right now.
How do I fix crowded teeth at home?
Please, don’t try! There is no way that you’ll be able to fix crowded teeth yourself. But if you don't want to visit a dentist for braces, consider an at-home aligner solution like Straight My Teeth. You receive everything in the post so it's very convenient and ideal for anyone who has a fear of the dentist.
If it's the cost that's stopping you, know that there are ways to make dentistry more affordable. We have put together a useful guide to dental finance that could help you explore your options.
What will my teeth look like after treatment?
There are two ways that you can try to understand what your teeth will look like after treatment. First, you can use Invisalign's SmileView tool which lets you preview your new smile for free in under a minute. Then, you can ask your dentist to see pictures of previous patients’ crowded teeth before and after treatment. This should give you a general idea of how your smile will improve.
Your dentist may also be able to do a computer simulation with before and after views of your overcrowded teeth. If you opt for Invisalign, you will automatically receive a simulation of your smile transformation.
This video has some examples of teeth treated with Invisalign, including before and after pictures and information about treatment times:
Braces for crowded teeth, or any other problem, isn’t a permanent fix for every dental issue. Even if you have had braces as a teenager, your teeth might start becoming crowded again later. It is a part of the natural ageing process, just as your skin develops wrinkles!
However, if you notice a change in your teeth very soon after your braces treatment has finished then visit your dentist. They may need to make adjustments to your retainers or offer further treatment.
How can you fix crowded teeth without braces?
Braces are usually the best and most efficient way to straighten overcrowded teeth. But that doesn't mean having metal glued to your teeth; clear aligners and clear braces are both just as effective. The material used makes them much harder to notice.