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Are Crooked Teeth Genetic?
Updated on January 4, 2023
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Are Crooked Teeth Genetic?

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, approximately 4 million people in the United States wear braces, clear aligners, or other dental corrective devices.

Crooked teeth, or misaligned teeth, are dental problems that require corrective measures. Long ago, methods for straightening teeth were ancient and painful.

Jutting teeth were filed, and overcrowded teeth were forced apart with metal forceps. With the advancement of technology, treatments for misaligned teeth have evolved into what they are today.

Fossil records show that humans developed crooked or misaligned teeth over time. Apparently, our hunter-gatherer ancestors used to have nearly perfect teeth.

Are Crooked Teeth Genetic? 2

Anthropologists say that changes in the diet caused the human jaw to shrink. Foods that required less chewing made us use our teeth and jaws less, which contributed to malocclusion or misaligned teeth.  

On the other hand, genetic studies revealed that the genes we inherit from our parents are responsible for our jaw size, dental arch, and our number of teeth.1

Are Crooked Teeth Genetic?

Genetics contribute to the development of crooked teeth. If your parents have misaligned teeth, you're more likely to have misaligned teeth, too.2

Some genetics-related factors that cause crooked teeth in children include:

  • Abnormally large teeth
  • Having extra teeth
  • Misaligned jaws
  • Overbites or class 2 malocclusion (It happens when the upper jaw and upper teeth overlap the lower and lower jaw)
  • Underbites or class 3 malocclusion (It occurs when the lower teeth jut out beyond the front of the upper teeth when the jaw is closed)

But while genetics cause crooked teeth, other factors also greatly influence teeth alignment. You may assess your genetic predisposition through genetic testing to learn your risks.

If genetically inclined to develop crooked teeth, you can improve your dental health through proper oral hygiene. Oral hygiene will reduce your risk for other oral health problems.

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Causes of Crooked Teeth

Aside from genetic factors, environmental factors can cause crooked teeth. These habits and disorders cause crowded teeth and undeveloped jaws.

Mouth breathing

Mouth breathing occurs when conditions like asthma or allergies force you to breathe through your mouth.

Breathing through your mouth puts your tongue in an abnormal position. If you fail to correct it, prolonged mouth breathing leads to an undeveloped upper and lower jaw.3

Open mouth posture

Like mouth breathing, an open mouth posture places the tongue in an abnormal position. An open mouth posture will eventually cause teeth misalignment because of undeveloped jaws.

Prolonged use of pacifiers and thumb sucking

The Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare says that pacifier use or thumb sucking in babies and young children is normal during the developmental stage.

However, these habits should stop when the child turns three years old. Prolonged thumb or pacifier sucking puts force on the teeth and jaws. It can affect the teeth or jaw growth, leading to crooked teeth.4

Tongue ties

A tongue tie, otherwise known as ankyloglossia, is a condition where a baby's frenulum is too short or tight. The frenulum is the tissue that anchors the tongue's underside to the mouth's bottom.

Children born with tongue ties have very limited tongue movement. The restriction in movement forces the tongue to have an abnormal posture, which narrows the palate. It results in very little space for teeth to grow properly.

Untreated tongue ties can, later on, cause problems like:

  • Periodontal disease or gum disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Teeth misalignment when permanent teeth develop

Tongue thrusting 

Tongue thrusting happens when the lips push back and the tongue pushes forward. It is also called reverse swallowing because it usually happens when you swallow.

Tongue thrusting can cause dental problems in children. When kids lose their baby teeth and their adult teeth come in, the new teeth are sensitive to outside pressure.5

The tongue is a strong muscle. When children consistently push their tongues against their front teeth, their teeth may shift. Over time, this can lead to an open bite.

Tooth loss

A tooth falling out causes the remaining teeth to move to fill the vacant space.

Teeth movement will eventually cause crooked teeth. Seek professional intervention when you lose a tooth so that they can provide medical advice and prevent misalignment.

Trauma

Trauma from physical violence, accidents, or injuries can lead to tooth loss. The forceful impact can alter jaw shape and cause teeth movement.

In adults, injuries from contact sports are one of the most common causes of crooked teeth.

Tumors of the mouth and jaw 

Some forms of oral cancer cause the formation of tumors.

Tumors found in the mouth and jaw cause crooked teeth. The space occupied by a tumor forces the teeth to move, which leads to misalignment problems.

Problems associated with crooked teeth

While crooked teeth are a problem, other problems are associated with it. 

Crooked teeth cause difficulty in chewing. They strain your jaw, which increases your likelihood of breaking a tooth.6

Additionally, crooked teeth are hard to clean. This predisposes you to develop dental caries.

There could also be enamel-related problems because protruding teeth rub against other teeth and wear down the enamel. Thinner enamel generally weakens the tooth.

More than this, crooked teeth greatly impact a person’s overall health and well-being. Misaligned teeth increase the chance of bacteria hiding in gum pockets, which can cause gum disease.

Studies say that untreated bacteria in the teeth or oral infection can go into the bloodstream. It may cause life-threatening conditions such as stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.7

What to do with crooked teeth

Having crooked teeth is not a reason to be disheartened.

Dental treatments can significantly improve crooked teeth' function, stability, and appearance. With the latest advancement in dental procedures, you’ll have a beautiful smile in no time.

Metal braces, or traditional braces, have been used for a long time. However, most people nowadays opt for something less noticeable than the standard metal brackets.

You can now opt for corrective devices like:

  • Dental veneers
  • Clear plastic aligners
  • Dental bonding

Talk to an orthodontist and discuss what will best work for you. 

Aside from these, good oral hygiene is very important. As your dentist will tell you, brush using fluoridated toothpaste twice daily. You should also floss and get regular dental checkups.

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Updated on January 4, 2023
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1 sources cited
Updated on January 4, 2023
  1.  
  2. Genetic, epigenetic, and environmental influences on dental arch variation.” AIP Publishing.
  3. The genetic basis of dental anomalies and its relation to orthodontics.” European Journal of Dentistry.
  4. Mouth breathing: adverse effects on facial growth, health, academics, and behavior.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  5. Can Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking Affect My Child’s Teeth?” American Association of Orthodontists.
  6. A Patient's Tongue May Be Causing Crooked Teeth.” Space Maintainers Laboratories.
  7. Oral Health and Swallowing Problems.” Current Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Reports.
  8. Systemic Diseases Caused by Oral Infection.” American Society for Microbiology.
Emjay B
Emjay B
Content Contributor
Emjay is a content writer for Know Your DNA. As a Physical Therapist and a registered nurse, she has extensive medical knowledge and hands-on experience in patient care. After getting her nursing license, she pursued full-time writing focused on healthcare.
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