Why are teeth crooked?

Parents often ask “why are my child’s teeth crooked?” Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Teeth can grow incorrectly for a number of reasons, including but not limited to, genetic influences, jaw growth deformities, patient habits and serious oral conditions.

While some of these factors are beyond our control and braces or other types of orthodontic treatment may be necessary to correct crooked teeth, there are a few things that parents can look out for to ensure their children are growing up with healthy and confident smiles.

Photo of a young girl wearing braces to correct her crooked teeth

Genetics and crooked teeth

When extra teeth or abnormally large teeth create a malocclusion (crooked teeth or a bad bite), genetics is usually at play. Other inherited traits involve jaws that are too small to accommodate a full set of teeth and misaligned jaws that are not growing evenly.

In most cases, underbites, overbites and crooked teeth are genetic and can’t be avoided, but can be treated. More serious growth problems will warrant early orthodontic intervention, well before all the adult teeth are through. Other less serious problems will probably require orthodontic treatment with braces to correct the condition once your child is old enough to wear them.

Childhood behaviours

While genetics play a major part in determining whether a child requires orthodontic treatment, certain early childhood behaviours may also contribute to the development of crooked teeth.

Taking care of baby teeth
Baby teeth act as space maintainers for future adult teeth. If a child loses a baby tooth too early, the adjacent teeth can drift into the empty space, reducing the space available later when the adult tooth is ready to erupt. Therefore, taking good care of baby teeth is vital if you want to prevent crowding in the adult teeth.

If a baby tooth is lost due to trauma, or extracted due to disease, it is important that you see an orthodontist for the placement of a space maintainer to prevent the loss of space.

Thumb sucking
A thumb sucking habit after the front teeth have erupted can also impact a child’s teeth – pushing the front teeth forward or possibly creating an open-bite. It’s important to note that there are usually no ill-effects from thumb sucking in early childhood and most children naturally give up the habit somewhere between 2-4 years of age.

However, if thumb sucking continues past the age of 6 or 7 (when adult teeth are coming through) there can be misalignment of front teeth and narrowing of the upper jaw which will lead to needing jaw expansion plates and braces. It’s therefore very important to break a thumb-sucking habit while the child is still young.

Image of a teenage boy smiling while wearing braces

Still unsure why your child’s teeth are crooked?

The Australian Society of Orthodontists recommend children between the ages of 7-10 years visit a specialist orthodontist for an assessment, no referral from a dentist needed.

For more information about orthodontic treatments for children, take a look at our Kids and Orthodontics e-book