Smile with crowded crooked bottom teethNobody likes a crowd.

Everyone pushing to get a nicer spot, have a better angle, be a part of the action — it’s unpleasant for everyone.

It’s no different inside your mouth.

As you age, your jawline can become more and more crowded. This is a totally normal and common process of getting older, and it’s something your dentist is prepared to help with!

At Sunnyside Dental, we regularly see patients of all ages with teeth crowding issues.

While this can be a concern for children and young adults, let’s consider how it affects our older clients.

It Can Happen To Anyone

While early intervention such as orthodontia, removal of wisdom teeth, or other oral surgical procedures as a young person can limit the negative effects of future tooth crowding, every mouth is susceptible to this issue. There are several potential reasons for this.

The maxillofacial muscles and ligaments that keep teeth in place can change (just like any soft tissue) over time, because of age-related atrophy and hormonal influences. That means that these ligaments can become foreshortened, pulling teeth closer to the front of the mouth.

According to a long-term study out of Sweden, the adult mandible is continually shrinking over time. While this may be only a few measurable millimeters of change in length and/or width, it’s a large enough difference to allow for alterations in the bite. Compressing the jaw space pushes teeth forward (even without the added pressure of wisdom teeth) into a crowding situation.

Others theories assert that tooth crowding is an evolutionary action:

  • Our ancestors wore down their teeth so significantly throughout their lifetimes (and kept their wisdom teeth) that our remaining teeth naturally shifted forward to maintain a strong dental arch for as long as possible, filling in the gaps of missing or eroded teeth over time.
  • The introduction of tools and, later, agriculture into the lives of ancient man may have prompted a change in our biology, such that we no longer needed such large, strong jaws. Subsequently, while our jaws get smaller and with each evolutionary stage, we still have the same number of teeth to fit in. The majority of ancient skulls uncovered by anthropologists and archaeologists have perfect teeth (maybe they had ancient orthodontists?)!

Crooked Teeth Could Be Masking Bigger Problems

Although this gradual tooth movement (officially called mesial drift) is a natural process of aging, its lingering negative effects can be many and varied.

The most obvious problem is a misaligned bite. Referred to as malocclusion, this is one of the most common orthodontic issues that dentists see. Malocclusion can cause broken or chipped teeth, worn enamel, bone loss in the jaw, sensitivity, nerve damage, and chronic jaw pain (called TMD, or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder), which can extend to your head and neck. All of these cause significant discomfort, and some can lead to infection or disease. It is important to address any bite issues you may be experiencing with your dentist to determine treatment. The earlier you catch these problems, the easier they are to rectify.

A similar concern, and one that we tend to see often in our adult patients at Sunnyside, is tooth grinding. Also known as bruxism, this is a disorder that most people don’t even realize they have.

Many sufferers grind their teeth in their sleep, or while they are sitting quietly, working on other things. Like malocclusion, bruxism can lead to worn or broken teeth, deteriorated enamel, abrasion to your oral tissue, tooth sensitivity, and even headaches or earaches. Tooth grinding can be exacerbated by bite changes or by stress, both of which are by-products of aging.

One of the most sinister problems caused by mesial drift is an increase in cavities. The deviation in your healthy dental lineup can make it harder to maintain your regular oral health. When teeth are pushed into tight positions, it can become very difficult to brush properly or to floss. This, of course, allows more plaque to form, which can very quickly lead to tooth decay, inflammation, and gum disease. This is particularly dangerous in mature patients, because our natural defenses (like enamel and robust gum tissue) break down over time, making it easier for bacteria to act.

Furthermore, recent studies have proven a link between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease –another reason why it is critical to prioritize your dental health.

Why Invisalign Could Be The Solution

According to the Canadian Orthodontic Association, more than 40% of orthodontic patients are adults.

The good news is that it’s not always necessary to see an orthodontic specialist to correct tooth-crowding. With proven treatments like Invisalign aligners, the highly-trained dentists in our practice have the expertise to resolve this problem right in our Kelowna office.

Invisalign clear aligners are an optimal choice to remedy problems like crowding. Because they are designed to shift teeth within the jaw, they are a non-invasive way of readjusting a patient’s bite.

Invisalign is effective in adults because they have stopped growing. (Traditional juvenile orthodontia accounts for the predicted growth of a child’s bone structure, but a different approach is necessary for older patients). Using a series of computer-designed, precise plastic trays, the Invisalign aligners can gently maneuver teeth within the existing jawline. Just as teeth gradually drift into crowding over time, this treatment gradually returns them to a healthy position. Once teeth are realigned (regardless of the type of treatment used), a retainer is necessary to prevent recurring drift.

There are several reasons why our older clients elect to go the Invisalign route. Most patients who choose this method to correct mesial drift find their treatment takes an average of only 18 months. Additionally, the trays are removable, which makes cleaning and care (and eating!) much easier. Many adults also appreciate that they’re invisible and not distracting in day-to-day professional exchanges.

It’s important to note that not everyone who suffers from crowding is a candidate for Invisalign treatment. If yours is a more serious structural problem, your Sunnyside dentists will refer you to an orthodontic or surgical specialist.

Feel like it’s getting a little cramped in your mouth? Let the professionals at Kelowna’s Sunnyside Dental help give your teeth a little more “elbow room”. Contact us to book your consultation, and we will find the right solution for you.