What causes crooked teeth in children?

Every parent wants to see their child smile………with a beautiful set of well aligned teeth. Unfortunately, some children end up with crooked teeth by the time they reach adolescence. At that point the only option is to treat the child with braces. But did you know that the condition for crooked teeth begins way before you notice them in your child’s mouth. There are many factors like genetics, malnutrition( diet ), oral habits and poor oral hygiene that contribute to crooked teeth. Read on to know more….

Crooked teeth or maligned teeth can be due to

  • Genetics
  • Bad oral habits
  • Illness or injury
  • Poor skeletal posture
  • Poor lip posture
  • Time of permanent tooth eruption
  • Modern diet


Just as you inherit the colour of your eyes, shape of your nose or your height from your parents, crooked teeth can also be inherited. In the classic “jaw size tooth material discrepancy” statement, genetics can be responsible for crooked teeth. Here, the jaw size can be inherited from one parent and the tooth size from the other parent. In addition, crowding, missing teeth, too many teeth and poor tooth and jaw development can contribute to malalignment. The difference in the development of the upper and the lower jaw can lead to overbite ( excessive protrusion of upper jaw ) or underbite ( lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper jaw ) problems.

Bad oral habits

A number of oral habits like thumb sucking, mouth breathing, tongue thrusting or the use of pacifiers, which seems relatively harmless or normal to you can be the silent killers for future maligned teeth in your children.

  • Thumb sucking

Thumb or digit sucking is normal in children as a comforting, security tool. Most children stop this habit between the ages of 2 and 4. However, it is best to encourage them to stop by 2 years. If the habit persists in your child and vigorous thumb sucking is continued, it may be damaging the upper front teeth and the roof of the mouth. Find out the reason for digit sucking in your child. They could be hungry, bored, tired or frustrated. You can then accordingly remedy the cause. If the habit is habitual in older kids, then talk to your dentist about the methods and habit breaking appliances that can be used.

  • Mouth breathing

Mouth breathing in your child is due to a blocked nose. A nose block can be because of a cold, allergic reaction or due to enlarged adenoids or tonsils. Dry lips, snoring at night repeated ear infections and an open mouth with parted lips during sleep and day time are some of the reasons for you to suspect mouth breathing in your child. It is time for you to fix an appointment with your dentist or ENT for further evaluation of your child. An anterior open bite ( A gap between the teeth of the upper jaw and the teeth of the lower jaw ) I most commonly seen with a narrow upper palate ( roof of the mouth ). Crowding of teeth is also seen. Early detection and treatment of mouth breathing in your child prevents severe malocclusion at a later date.

  • Tongue posture

Proper tongue posture is when the tongue and tip of the tongue is placed upwards pressed against the palate. This position of the tongue activates the muscles that connect to the jaw, the base of the skull, the spine and the throat. A low and forward posture of the tongue indicates that your child’s tongue is not pressed against the palate. When you notice that your child swallows with the front teeth held apart with the tongue pressed against and placed between the upper and lower teeth, has lisping in his speech, has a tongue tie, then its time to meet your dentist. Improper swallow with tongue thrusting habit can lead to facial deformities. Your child should have straight spinal posture, closed lips and nasal breathing when eating, swallowing and at rest.

  • Use of bottles or sippy cups

Breast feeding is the best option for your new born. Use of bottles with nipples or prolonged use of pacifiers can damage the normal growth curve of your infant. It’s best to breast feed for upto 24 months. Avoid the Sippy cups and give your child the cup by 12 months of age. Prolonged use of pacifiers makes the palate narrow and lead to malalignment of teeth in later life.


Illness or injury

Sometimes, external factors like diseases and injuries can cause crooked teeth. These can be a broken jaw, broken teeth, tooth extractions or missing teeth.

Poor lip posture

At rest your child’s face muscles should keep the lips together. You could notice that your child’s lips do not sit together. The lower lip is generally floppy and lacks the muscle tone than the upper lip. This is because of the low and forward tongue posture. A puckering or dimpling of the muscles is seen on the chin when the lower lip of forced to close. A normal lip closure should not have this effect on the chin muscles. Make an appointment with your dentist who will refer your child to an orthodontist for appropriate treatment.

Time of eruption of permanent teeth

Early loss of milk teeth or over retained milk teeth can both cause subsequent crowding in the permanent teeth set. This is one of the most frequently seen causes of crooked teeth. In addition poor oral hygiene habits in children can lead to tooth decay and tooth loss. Poor gum health can be a cause of bad teeth at a later time in age. When you notice that a new tooth is coming in your child’s mouth even before the milk tooth has fallen, make an appointment with your dentist immediately. When your child loses a milk tooth prematurely check with your dentist for the possible space maintenance appliance therapy.

Poor modern diet

One of the theories for the need of braces for crooked teeth is the changes in the jaw structure due to diet. The soft, refined modern diet does not require any chewing. Chewing is the main stimulus for jaw growth. When the required stimulus for jaw growth is missing, the jaw becomes smaller. The teeth erupting into a smaller jaw  leads to malocclusion.


Crooked teeth cause

  • Interference in chewing
  • Increase in tooth decay as it is difficult to clean between irregular teeth
  • Increased risk of tooth breakage due to increased strain on teeth , jaws and muscles
  • Loss of self esteem due to appearance
Your child’s first visit to the dentist should be at 4 months of age, when the first teeth erupt. The earlier the child visits his dentist, the better are the chances for a well aligned and healthy set of teeth. The timely checkups also reduce the cost of dental treatments at a later date in life.

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