Teeth crowding is a common dental condition that responds well to various treatment methods. Although often harmless, teeth crowding can make brushing, flossing, and maintaining good oral hygiene a struggle. Many adults choose to correct their crowding issues, even later in life, for the sake of their overall oral hygiene and feeling completely at ease with their smiles.
If you’re looking for a reliable solution to your crowding issue, there’s no shortage of options. With thorough research and a dentist consultation, you’ll likely be able to find one that’s congruent with your timeline, finances, and expectations. This guide can serve as your starting point, providing foundational information on teeth crowding and outlining the best treatment options.
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What is Teeth Crowding?
Crowding is a condition that affects tooth positioning, causing teeth to overlap, rotate, and displace. Usually, this occurs when the teeth run out of jaw space and are forced to erupt in an alternative position. This typically occurs when the teeth are first emerging in children, and often persists into adulthood. However, minor crowding is also common in adults who neglected to wear their retainers after orthodontic treatment.
It’s most common to find crowding among the front six top or bottom teeth, but it can occur anywhere in the dental arches. Sometimes crowded teeth are also accompanied by a bite condition such as crossbite, which makes treatment a bit more complicated (although still totally possible — more on this later).
What Causes Teeth Crowding?
Many cases of crowding are the result of disharmony between the size of the jaw and the size of the teeth. If the jaw is too small or the teeth are too large, certain teeth can become displaced and forced to push together, while others take up more space then they’re allotted.
This isn’t the only potential cause of crowding — it can also occur due to premature or latent loss of baby teeth. Losing baby teeth prematurely can lead to tooth drifting and misalignment, and losing them too late can cause the permanent teeth to shift forward or back.
Finally, teeth often shift and crowd naturally over the course of one’s life. As the jaw bone and its connecting ligaments weaken with age, it’s quite common for middle aged and older adults to notice crowding – especially overlapping bottom front teeth – that may not have been present at a younger age.
Is It a Medical Issue?
Very rarely does teeth crowding present a serious medical issue. Cases are usually mild, but this doesn’t mean they’re completely harmless.
Crowded areas in the mouth are more difficult to clean and, therefore, attract more plaque buildup, which can lead to accelerated tooth decay and potential gum disease. Further, it can cause uneven wear on your teeth, as certain ones have more exposure and contact than others. Teeth crowding is also known to cause food traps in the mouth, causing pain and inflammation in areas where food and plaque have caused irritation.
Occasionally, crowding issues can be accompanied or caused by more serious conditions, like crossbite or overjet, instigating jaw pain, headaches, and enamel breakdown. These cases are more complex and many times require more intricate corrective treatments if you’re seeking drastic before-and-after results.
That said, a majority of crowding cases are minor and treatment is relatively straightforward. So if your teeth crowding makes chewing, brushing, flossing, etc. difficult, or if it keeps you from smiling with confidence, keep reading to learn about a few common treatment options and hopefully find the one that’s right for you!
Top 5 Ways to Correct Teeth Crowding in Adults
If you’re ready to browse some teeth crowding treatments, you’re in the right place. Each of the options listed here can correct certain cases of adult crowding. As you consider your options, be sure to consult your dentist as well, and together you can select a treatment that works with your dental and financial situation.
Here are the four best methods for correcting teeth crowding:
Braces are widely considered effective at correcting crowded teeth even, when it’s caused or accompanied by a more complex issue, like overjet. In addition to dental correction, braces can also achieve a degree of skeletal realignment when paired with elastics and other specialized appliances. The main downside of braces is their visibility, since most adults favor treatment options that are less conspicuous.
If your crowding is caused by an underlying bite issue, braces are an excellent treatment option, often working more quickly than other correction methods. That said, treatment with braces can be pretty pricey, generally ranging between $3,000-$7,000. If your crowding is not accompanied by any other complications, it may be worth considering one of the other less invasive (and less expensive) treatment options on this list.
Thinking about getting braces? Check out our guide to treating teeth crowding with braces, which covers options, costs and other important considerations in greater detail.
Known for having pioneered the world’s first clear, removable teeth aligners, Invisalign is another viable treatment option for correcting teeth crowding in adults. If your crowding is accompanied by overjet or some other bite issue, Invisalign can be paired with additional dental appliances to help correct it, just like traditional braces.
However, unlike braces, Invisalign can be provided by a standard dentist (rather than an orthodontist), so there’s a good chance your treatment can be administered at the same place you go to get your teeth cleaned. Keep in mind that, similar to treatment with braces, Invisalign treatment requires regular visits to the dentist. So, this option may not be best for someone with a busy schedule.
Of course, the most notable differences between these treatment methods is that Invisalign is 1) removable, and 2) much more discreet than traditional braces. That said, Invisalign clear aligner trays are able to shift your teeth about equally as quickly as braces, and for approximately the same price (between $3,500-$8,000).
Considering Invisalign? Read our guide to treating teeth crowding with Invisalign, which covers options, costs and other important considerations in greater detail.
3) Home Teeth Aligners
While Invisalign remains the best-known option for removable teeth aligners, there are many others available today. In the past few years, a number of online companies like Smile Direct Club have entered the industry to provide a more affordable option for adults seeking to straighten their teeth and correct crowding issues from home.
Similar to the Invisalign treatment process, you’ll receive a set of clear, removable aligners customized to your teeth by a dental professional — but unlike Invisalign, your care will be handled entirely remotely and not require any trips to the dentist’s office.
Home alignment products are significantly more affordable than braces or Invisalign, with an average cost of $1,800-$2,000. All in all, unless your crowding is the result of severe bite misalignment, home teeth alignment is most likely a viable option for you.
To learn more, we encourage you to read our review of the top 5 home teeth aligners.
Interested in learning more about at-home teeth aligners? Visit our guide to treating teeth crowding with at-home aligners, which covers options, costs and other important considerations in greater detail.
A popular alternative to dental realignment, veneers are thin but sturdy pieces of porcelain that bond to your teeth in order to transform your smile instantaneously. Truth be told, veneers have about as many major upsides as they do downsides for correcting teeth crowding. On the positive side, veneers offer the possibility of immediate gratification, and cause much less discomfort than physically shifting your teeth. However, they are not a permanent solution, as they do not actually correct the underlying crowding issue.
Furthermore, this option often requires “prepping” your teeth by shaving down the enamel before actually receiving your veneers. This process is not reversible, so it will be necessary to replace your veneers in the future. For this reason, veneers are often a very pricey treatment option in the long run. It’s important to understand that you would be making a financial commitment to update your smile ($500-$2,000 per tooth) at least once every 7-10 years.
Because more severe crowding can often lead to an uneven dental arch exterior, veneers only work with certain cases. If you’re considering veneers as an option, consult a dentist to see if they’re viable for your unique condition.
Intrigued by veneers? Check out out our guide to veneers, which covers the pros and cons of this treatment option in much greater depth.
Despite the fact that teeth crowding rarely presents a dire medical concern, if it causes physical discomfort or makes you hesitant to show off your smile, it’s worth considering corrective solutions. Advances in dental technology have provided treatments that are convenient, low-profile, and affordable, so you can get the transformative results you want without breaking the bank.
If you’re worried about the severity of your crowding, or if you think it’s being compounded by another dental condition, it’s best to pay your dentist a visit. There, you can get a thorough analysis of your issue and a professional treatment referral, so you’ll be well-informed as you choose a route and start on your journey toward a shining, confident smile.