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There are a variety of methods to treat crowding teeth. Crowding teeth, also known as malocclusion, is a common medical condition. Braces, usually applied in adolescence, are the most common treatment. Surgery is only done in the most extreme cases. No matter what treatment an individual receives, his or her prognosis will be positive.
Malocclusion describes both incorrectly positioned teeth and crowding teeth. Present in most people, the condition is caused by a number of factors that occur during childhood development; thumb sucking, nail biting and mouth breathing are a few examples. It is nearly impossible to prevent the condition from occurring. The condition becomes apparent as permanent teeth take the place of baby teeth. Observing this condition during a routine cleaning, a dentist will recommend that an adolescent see an orthodontist.
An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in correcting many forms of malocclusions. As with many medical specialties, years of extra training are required to become an orthodontist. An orthodontist will generally recommend that an adolescent wear braces to correct his or her teeth. Normal braces use metal wire and brackets to gradually reposition teeth into a more desirable setting. The normal time for wearing braces is one to two years.
Though braces are an option for adults diagnosed with this condition, other treatments exists that are less invasive and noticeable. A somewhat more expensive option than normal braces are braces the color of one's teeth. These braces do not stand out and are a good option for someone who might feel self-conscious about wearing braces as an adult.
A noninvasive and unnoticeable treatment for crowding teeth is the Invisalign system. A patient wears a series of clear, removable aligners that gradually reposition the teeth over a period of two years. Besides being the most cosmetically attractive option, a person can remove the aligners while drinking, eating and brushing his or her teeth. Following the treatment's rules are very important, though, as the aligners only work if kept in the mouth for 22 hours a day. A downside of this treatment is that most insurance plans do not cover its extremely high cost.
In cases where the bones anchoring the teeth are malformed, surgery becomes necessary to correct crowding teeth. Surgery involves making a cut in the lower jaw, or mandible, and repositioning the bone into the correct alignment. Nerve damage is a possible complication in addition to other complications that can occur after any surgery. A full recovery is always expected if a patient follows the instructions for post-surgical care.
Even if a patient must undergo surgery to correct the condition, prognosis is always good. Braces and Invisalign create a permanent, desired result in the vast majority of cases. Though the expense may be high for some treatments, the cost of doing nothing is even greater. Crowded or misaligned teeth can lead to multiple cavities and inflammation over time. No matter what form it takes, prevention will provide the better outcome.
@MrsPramm - Well, crowding teeth is a fairly modern problem in terms of our species. The theory goes that we've been gradually developing smaller and smaller jaws, probably as we changed our diets. I've also heard people suggest that we have evolved to look more and more child-like in general primate terms, with small jaws, big heads and big eyes, because we are such social animals that it's better for us to have these features to invoke sympathy in each other.
Because evolution isn't a perfect process, our jaws have been getting smaller and our teeth haven't, and probably never will since there is no evolutionary pressure on that feature now that we have other ways of taking care of the problem.
So if you have crowded teeth you can, theoretically, claim to be more highly evolved.
@browncoat - Often braces have to be put on for both cosmetic and health reasons. Dentists might have to pull a tooth to make room for the rest and then make sure they grow into the right places.
And crowded teeth are more likely to develop cavities, since they are more difficult to clean properly, so that's an issue as well.
It kind of makes you wonder how we ever survived as a species considering how crucial teeth are and how easily they can be damaged or go wrong, even with modern care.
I had an argument with one of my friends once, where I claimed that voluntary plastic surgery was always a waste of time and that people should just learn to love themselves the way they were.
She countered by telling me about how she had to wear braces on her teeth when she was a teenager and that was essentially the same thing. It was purely for cosmetic reasons, rather than because her teeth were bothering her, and she couldn't see what was wrong with that.
It made me realize that I didn't have the right to judge anyone who wanted to have cosmetic surgery or adjustment of any kind. I wouldn't blame someone who wanted to take care of their crowded teeth, so judging someone else who wanted to change the shape of their nose or stomach was a bit hypocritical.
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