Ask the Dentist: Did I Inherit Crooked Teeth?
For everyone who has looked into the mirror and wondered “Why me?”, we get Dr Dian Samijono to set the record straight about the causes of crooked teeth.
On YourSmile.SG, we’ve discussed, rather extensively, how to fix crooked teeth and create your ideal smile. So, this time, we’ve decided to go to the root of the problem by enlisting i.Dental’s Dr Dian Samijono’s help to figure out why some of us have to suffer crooked teeth.
Dr Dian, why do I have crooked teeth? Was I born with it, or was it something I did?
Crooked teeth can occur for a variety of reasons. You may have inherited the size of your jaw and teeth from your parents, and, if it turns out that you have a narrow jaw and large teeth, there simply may not be enough space for your teeth to stand in a straight row. Genetics aside, certain medical conditions, such as a cleft lip or palate, could contribute to less-than-straight teeth.
Environmental factors can also come into play. The prolonged use of pacifiers or a thumb-sucking habit during childhood could have encouraged the development of crooked teeth, while the early loss or delayed exfoliation of milk teeth, abnormal tooth shape, presence of extra teeth or impacted teeth (those that grow inside the gum without fully emerging) could also cause crooked teeth to happen.
Some causes sound preventable, though. Are they really?
To some extent, yes. Taking genetics and medical conditions out of the equation, there are many ways for parents of young children to minimise the chances of crooked teeth developing. I highly recommend that parents wean their children off pacifiers before the age of two, and monitor their children for thumb-sucking. Both can affect how the child’s teeth develop. And while this may not immediately sound like a dental-related issue, it’s also important to address allergies early on. Allergies could lead to mouth breathing as a result of airway obstruction, and mouth breathing is a known perpetrator of crooked teeth. I also hope to see more parents bringing their children for regular dental check-ups so that dentists can help them avoid the early loss of milk teeth from decay, and detect irregular milk teeth retention.
Ok, let’s say my parents did all that for me, and I grew up with straight teeth. Am I safe from crooked teeth now?
I wish I could give you the answer that I think you’re hoping for, but the truth is, crooked teeth can develop in adulthood too. Sometimes, we have no control over this — like when an impacted wisdom tooth (one that grows inside the gum instead of fully emerging) contributes to crowding, especially in the lower front teeth — but mostly we do.
Poor oral hygiene may lead to severe gum disease and decay that could, in turn, cause unwanted tooth movement. If you’re prone of holding objects in your mouth or biting your fingernails, this could create additional pressure that may lead to teeth misalignment. The same goes for jaw clenching and teeth grinding. Also, if you’ve had your teeth straightened but don’t wear your retainers as instructed, you could be setting yourself up for a post-braces relapse.
Do I really need to get my crooked teeth fixed?
Teeth straightening is a choice, but one that I do recommend to my patients. Aesthetically, it will improve your appearance and confidence, but the benefits go far beyond that. With straight teeth, you’ll be chewing more effectively. Some of my patients have even experienced improved speech. And because straight teeth are easier to brush and floss (no hard-to-reach areas for plaque to hide), you’ll enjoy a reduced risk of tooth decay and gum disease. In short, I believe that fixing crooked teeth can help improve quality of life in more ways than one.
How do you decide whether to recommend braces or Invisalign to your patients?
Both braces and Invisalign are equally effective treatment methods, so it really boils down to the patient’s condition and their lifestyle needs.
For example, I have patients who are conscious of their appearance, and others who love contact sports like soccer and boxing. In both cases, Invisalign would be a much better lifestyle fit because it’s almost invisible, and the absence of metal brackets and wires makes it safer for sports. For the same reason, Invisalign is also more comfortable, as ulcers, abrasions, and snapped wires don’t happen. However, it does require good patient compliance. The aligners are removable, but you need to wear them for at least 22 hours a day. So, for patients with little self-discipline, braces may be a better consideration. Of course, this is a decision that is best taken in consultation with a trusted, qualified and experienced dentist.
Dr Dian Samijono enjoys all aspects of dentistry, but admits that she has a special interest in aesthetic dentistry because she strongly believes that a healthy and beautiful smile can improve quality of life.