Studies show that people with straight teeth are perceived to be more successful, smarter, and more likely to get dates than those with crooked teeth. But why do crooked teeth happen in the first place?
It still isn’t entirely clear what causes teeth to grow in crooked, but one of the current leading theories is called the Soft Foods Theory. The basic idea is that we eat much softer foods than our hunter-gatherer ancestors did, so we aren’t stimulating as much bone growth in our jaws when we chew our food, which leaves our teeth with insufficient space to grow in straight. We also might be getting fewer of the vitamins and minerals that help teeth and bones grow.
That doesn’t mean you should change to a hunter-gatherer diet; the downside of having to chew so much more is that the teeth are subject to a significant amount of additional wear and tear. Personally, we think needing a little orthodontic treatment is a much better deal than an increased risk of wearing out our teeth.
Another contributing cause of crooked teeth is our genes. If you inherit a small jaw from your mother and large teeth from your father, they probably won’t fit together very neatly. Children of parents who had braces are also more likely to need them, but that could be at least partly because parents who had braces know the benefits of having straight teeth better than other parents who didn’t!
We can’t control what genes we get and a hunter-gatherer diet doesn’t sound very fun, but there’s another factor that absolutely impacts dental alignment, and that’s daily habits. The good news is that this is one factor we can control. Some of the habits that can seriously affect a dental arch are thumb sucking or pacifier use beyond age four, habitual mouth breathing, a tongue-thrust reflex, and even simply resting your chin on your hand a lot!
Even someone who had straight teeth as a kid or who got them thanks to orthodontic treatment can still have their teeth shift as they age. This is called mesial drift. Over decades of chewing and talking, our teeth rub against each other countless times, which can gradually wear away at the sides of each tooth, making them a tiny bit narrower. When this happens, they can scoot closer together and gradually push towards the front of the mouth, which is why older adults sometimes need braces too!
Whether you have crowding issues because of genes, habits, or a lifetime of eating processed foods, the orthodontist can help you get the smile you deserve. Give us a call to set up a consultation so we can start developing your unique treatment plan!