You Need Braces: What Are the Causes of Crooked Teeth and Bad Bites?

Young girl with crooked teeth smiling

For teeth to grow in normally, there has to be enough jaw growth (in the right proportion) and correct jaw alignment to make a proper environment to be able to hold the normal tooth mass. Then you have to consider that the baby teeth need to fall out at the appropriate time and the permanent teeth erupt when they need to in the proper order.

There are two accepted general causes for your teeth being maligned or crooked and thus requiring braces or some form of corrective apparatus to straighten your teeth:

  1. Genetics
  2. Environmental


Heredity (the traits that are handed down from your parents or extended family) can result in congenital factors (meaning that it is present at birth). Some jaws are too small, not providing enough space for the teeth to grow normally, or in other instances it is a difference in size or shape between the bottom and top jaw. These conditions will dictate how your teeth grow and how the bite is formed, and is something you have little control over.

These conditions are considered notable factors in:

  • Crowding—not enough space/room for teeth to erupt normally from the gum.
  • Overbites—when the upper front teeth extend out over the lower front teeth.
  • Underbites—where the lower front teeth sit in front of the upper front teeth.

In some instances, neither parents might have needed braces, but as a result of their child getting a mix of their traits (for instance, the mother’s smaller jaw structure, and the father’s larger teeth) the conditions could exist that causes a malocclusion to occur.

There are other genetic factors that can influence or affect how teeth come to align. These are:

  • Not enough teeth
  • Having too many (supernumerary) teeth
  • Tooth development anomalies (abnormally shaped teeth, impacted teeth)
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Enlarged labial frenulum (the piece of skin that attaches from the center of the upper lip to between the upper two front teeth)


There are also factors that might be outside of what genetics controls. These are some habits or conditions that develop that aren’t related to genes or inherited traits that also impact how teeth grow out and jaws develop.


There are numerous unforeseeable factors that can can account for how teeth develop.

  • Diseases that alter development (especially affecting the endocrine system)
  • Oral tumors
  • Permanent tooth extraction
  • Broken teeth
  • Mouth breathing
  • Injuries or accidents that cause jaw misalignment
  • Allergies and/or enlarged tonsils and adenoids that block the airways


Young girl sucking her thumbMore and more emphasis is being placed on the need to limit bad habits that can cause orthodontic issues down the road. Bad habits (known more officially as incorrect myofacial habits) have a direct impact on how teeth and jaw structures develop—resulting in higher likelihood that orthodontic appliances (like braces) will be necessary to correct the bite.

Your mom and dad might have told you to stop sucking your thumb when you were a child. And it was for a good reason. This habit can lead to an overbite. As the thumb is sucked, it pushes the top teeth forward while pulling the bottom teeth backwards. Over time the gentle but sustained forces will cause the teeth to move.

Here are some of the more common habits that can cause teeth and jaws to misalign:

  • Extended thumb or pacifier sucking
  • Extended early childhood bottle feeding
  • Tongue thrusting
  • Sleeping face down
  • Leaning on your palm while sitting up


There is even a current philosophy that the composition of the modern processed diet is a contributing factor, in that it doesn’t contain the necessary nutrients to promote proper growth of a broad jaw. The result is believed to be a narrowed dental arch jaw that cannot sustain the number of teeth that a mouth contains causing the teeth to crowd one another and eventually grow in crooked.

Dental Hygiene

There’s a good reason that both dentists and orthodontists promote active, frequent and healthy oral hygiene habits—and that’s even before you get braces!

Not paying the proper attention to your gums and teeth can have far reaching consequences. Inflamed gums, gingivitis and other diseases resulting from poor oral hygiene can directly affect how teeth grow.

Teeth that need to be removed or fall out can change how jaws develop as other teeth move or develop. If baby teeth fall out early it impacts how the permanent teeth erupt later on.

How to Recognize Early Onset of Malocclusions

Early detection of a malocclusion may help cut down on the length (and severity) of the treatment needed to correct the problem. Being able to recognize what might be a precursor to a malocclusion is a good defense. Typical symptoms (which will vary in severity according to type) include:

  • Misaligned teeth
  • Alteration in the appearance of the face
  • Continuous cheek or tongue biting
  • Pain associated with chewing or biting down
  • Speech impediments (like a lisp)
  • Heavier mouth breathing (more oral than nasal)

It is always a good idea to contact a professional if you have any doubts or questions. In many instances, orthodontists will offer a free initial consultation for a family member to determine if there is indeed a malocclusion as well as what course of action is in their best interest.

If you have questions or concerns about a family member’s teeth or bite, Orthodontic Associates has nine offices around the Greater Baltimore Area to choose from. Contact us to set up your FREE initial consultation.


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