Crowded Teeth Causes, Problems and Treatments for Children and Adults

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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 will keep an eye on crowded baby teeth and may recommend crowded teeth correction in children. Cosmetic dentistry for crowded teeth is also common among adults; treatment options include veneers, Invisalign, and other types of braces.

crowded lower teeth
Lower teeth crowding is especially common

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 the answer to the question: What is teeth crowding? Along with the following information:

  • Causes of crowded teeth
  • Crowded teeth symptoms
  • Problems that result from crowded teeth
  • Solutions to fix your crowded teeth
  • Crowded teeth and pain
  • Before and after teeth crowding treatment
  • Answers to some common questions about overcrowding teeth

Both crowded lower teeth and upper teeth can require fixing, but treatment is often relatively simple. Read on for all the information you’ll need if you have crowded bottom or top teeth.

What causes crowded teeth?

There are quite a few reasons that people encounter crowded teeth problems. Some of the most common are:

  • Thumb and pacifier 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, crowded 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, so it’s common for adults to want to fix overcrowded bottom teeth.

The eruption of wisdom teeth doesn’t cause overcrowding in your other 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. The pain people feel with wisdom teeth is because your mouth is too crowded for your wisdom teeth to grow in, but not because wisdom teeth cause other teeth to crowd. 

Below we’ll talk more about treatment options, including treatment with at-home invisible braces like those offered by SmileDirectClub. If you want to find out if you’re eligible, take their free Smile Assessment. 

Do crowded teeth cause problems?

keep teeth clean
Misaligned teeth are harder to clean

If your teeth feel crowded 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.

Fixing crowded teeth 

There is a range of teeth straightening options 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.

Medicaid and CHIP provide free treatment to fix crowded teeth with braces 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 Medicaid eligibility criteria in our guide to braces for children and our guide to Medicare and Medicaid.

Because the state-funded health insurance 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.

Crowded teeth and braces

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, but there are different types of braces to consider depending on various factors including severity and where your crowding is: Do you have front teeth crowding, lower teeth crowding, back teeth crowding?

Permanent 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-colored, making them much less noticeable. 

Children receiving free treatment from Medicaid or CHIP will probably only be offered metal braces; any other styles must be paid for privately. 

Does Invisalign work for crowded teeth?

fixing crowded bottom teeth
Invisible braces work well on mild cases

It’s possible to use invisible braces such as the brand 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 Express 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.

Retainers

Sometimes dentists can fix crowded teeth without braces, using retainers. Either a removable or permanent (lingual) retainer are both options for mild crowding of the teeth.

fix crowded teeth
A retainer may be able to do the job

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 be a crowded teeth treatment without braces, provided the crowding 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 veneers.

Veneers don’t actually straighten your teeth; they just make them appear straighter by covering up the crooked parts. From an esthetic perspective, this works really well, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problems that come from having crowded 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 state-funded insurance. Also, they aren’t a suitable solution for children with crowded teeth, who will usually be directed to braces or retainers.

Crowns

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. You can read more about dental crowns here.

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 crowded teeth treatment options

Here a summary of the crowded teeth treatments and costs we’ve covered for fixing crowded teeth:

Treatment Cost Maintenance Treatment Time Results
Permanent metal braces $2,500 - $7,500 Additional cleaning and flossing while wearing 12-24 months depending on severity Long term fix, must wear a retainer after
Permanent ceramic braces $3,000 - $10,000 Additional cleaning and flossing while wearing 12-24 months depending on severity Long term fix, must wear a retainer after
Retainers $250 - $750 Daily cleaning after taking out 6-12 months depending on severity Long term fix, must continue to wear at night after movements complete
Invisalign braces $3,500 - $8,500 Daily cleaning of aligner and teeth after each removal 6-24 months, depending on severity Long term fix, must wear a retainer after
Veneers per tooth Composite: $250 - $1,200; Porcelain: $500 - $2,500 Continue normal oral health routine One or two dentist visits, depending on type Cosmetic fix, lasts 5-20 years depending on type
Crowns per tooth (depending on material) $500 - $2,000 Continue normal oral health routine One or two dentist visits, depending on type Significant loss of healthy teeth, lasts 5-15 years
Tooth extraction $75 - $800 After initial healing, none Usually one dentist visit, may be followed by braces Permanent loss of the tooth, more room in your mouth for braces to move teeth

FAQs

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. But there are certainly people who have their crowded teeth fixed with braces and without extraction.

Here, Dr. Loh shares a case where he didn’t need to extract teeth to get great results:

I promised I will upload another video if my last posting attracts more than 500 views. So, here it is. Another non extraction case as the facial profile is beautiful. This case was complicated by the patient's tongue thrusting habit. Appropriate tongue exercise was prescribed.

How do braces work on crowded teeth and how long does it take?

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. The severity of your misalignment will determine the duration of your treatment. However, mildly crowded teeth can often be treated with Invisalign Lite, which takes just 6-8 months.

What are the best braces for treating overcrowding?

crowded top teeth
Speak to your dentist about the best braces for you

This is 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 at-home invisible braces, don’t forget to SmileDirectClub’s free Smile Assessment.

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 at home. Please visit your dentist and talk about your options.

The cost of braces or other treatment might seem unmanageable, but 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.

I have crowded bottom teeth, is it normal to feel pain?

When you have bottom teeth crowding, pain isn’t normal. Because crowded bottom teeth can lead to tooth decay, it is likely this is what is causing your pain. Pain in your teeth – crowded or straight – is best not to be ignored; please visit a dentist for an assessment.

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 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 to show you what your smile will look like after treatment. 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:

Invisalign Before and After Pictures

My bottom teeth are crowding after braces treatment, why?

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, it won’t always stop your teeth from becoming crowded again later. It is a part of the natural aging process, just as your skin develops wrinkles!

However, if you notice that you have crowded teeth again soon after your braces treatment has finished, then visit your dentist. They may need to make adjustments to your retainers or offer further treatment.

Conclusion

As we get older, it’s natural for our teeth to become a bit crooked, especially in the lower jaw. Braces, retainers and veneers are all possible treatments if you want to restore your smile.

In children, overcrowding can be treated reasonably easily too. Make sure that your child wears their retainer after treatment so that teeth crowding is less likely to re-occur as they get older.

If you decide not to correct your crowded teeth, you’ll need to pay special attention to your oral hygiene in order to minimize your risk of tooth decay. A water flosser may help you keep the irregular spaces between your teeth clean.

Crowded Teeth Causes, Problems and Treatments for Children and Adults
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Sources

The Journal of the American Dental Association: Third Molars and Incisor Crowding: When Removal Is Unwarranted. Consulted 11th June 2019.

Sparkle Dental: Extracting teeth to relieve crowding – is there an alternative? Consulted 11th June 2019.

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