The easiest problem to identify is how the teeth look. It’s very common for an upper front tooth to slightly overlap the other front tooth, or for an upper front lateral (the smaller teeth next to the middle teeth) to overlap a front tooth. Lower front teeth are notorious for crowding over time. Because of the angles and direction of forces on teeth, they tend to drift forward over time. The lower front teeth have very narrow roots that move relatively easily, so as teeth drift they are the ones that move out of place.
Another easy problem to recognize is food and plaque trapping. Teeth that are crooked tend to catch more food (and are more difficult to clean) than properly-aligned teeth. Sometimes this trapping is because of an open space between the teeth and sometimes it’s because the contact with the adjacent tooth is in a non-ideal place. When plaque is trapped against the gums or teeth decay and gum defects can develop in those areas.
Crooked teeth can also cause functional problems. The teeth may come together and slide across each other in non-ideal ways that put excessive pressure on certain teeth or allow forces in directions that are more likely to damage the teeth. This can cause teeth to feel achy or sensitive to cold, wear quickly, become loose, chip or break, and develop cracks. Even if crooked teeth do not bother you from an appearance standpoint, it’s prudent to have them evaluated for the effects of the forces on the teeth. A functional chewing system also happens to be an esthetically-pleasing chewing system. Many of my patients who pursue orthodontic treatment do so more for functional reasons than esthetics.
If you have any concerns about the appearance of your smile, areas that trap food when you eat, chipped or broken teeth, or tooth pain, call us for an evaluation.