What Causes Crooked Teeth?

Primitive people mostly had straight teeth, but in industrialised populations, crooked teeth are common. Modern living also affects the shape of the jaws and in certain parts of India undershot chins are five times as common in privileged people as their close relatives who are very poor. Corruccini,R, et al 1983.

Children faces can look very different from their parents. The young face is very plastic and gentle pressure from the lips or tongue over long periods can result in major deformations. Everyone has seen a good looking youngster become an unattractive teenager but most are unaware of the reason. It is now possible to forecast how an individual child’s face will grow with some accuracy. The purpose of this web site is to help parents and professionals to recognise when a child’s face is growing incorrectly and understand what can be done to influence it. The three most important factors are the strength of the muscles, the position of the lips and the method of swallowing. For various reasons the majority of ‘normal’ children “between 3 and 4 years old leave their mouths open over 80% of the time. (Glatz-Noll,E & Berg,R. 1991)”.

Most people hang their mouth open more than they think. If you sometimes wake up in the morning with a dry mouth, you fall into this group and your face and teeth are likely to show the consequences. If the mouth is kept closed, the jaw bones will grow correctly creating an attractive face with straight teeth.

This is well illustrated by the images above of a boy who developed a blocked nose and hung his mouth open. Notice how his face has lengthened, his lower lip is thickened and his eyes and nose now appear to be protrusive. These are the first signs of incorrect growth and are due to the upper jaw failing to grow forward. Such faces have flat cheeks with loose discoloured skin under the eyes.

Nearly all children have the potential to grow attractively, but habits such as hanging the mouth open or sucking the thumb will cause the face to grow vertically. Studies have shown that certain types of orthodontic treatment can cause significant vertical growth and it is wise for patients to ask for assurance about this risk before treatment commences.

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