New Epidemic: Crowded Teeth

Crowded teeth are the new epidemic among children, but no one is sounding the alarm. The majority of referrals seem to be all about cosmetic purposes of straightening the teeth. But, is there an underlying reason for crowded teeth and could the impact be more than most are being told?

Crowded teeth are a direct result of the mandible and maxilla not growing big enough to accommodate all of the teeth. We’ve been told that the fix for crowded teeth is to pull a few teeth to make room for the rest of the teeth. Is that really the best choice? Why do we have all of these teeth if they won’t fit into our mouth in the first place? Were we always intended to have a need to pull teeth? 

The term epigenetic applies here. Over time, due to poor diet, malnutrition, lack of opportunities to chew hard foods, mouth breathing, low tongue posture, increased processed foods, and other factors the jaw has begun to grow small in many individuals. When the jaw grows smaller than it should but all of the teeth still come in, there isn’t room to accommodate all of the teeth. However, is pulling teeth still the best choice? 

Airway focused dentistry focuses on growing the jaw and expanding the palate in order to accommodate all of the teeth rather than pulling teeth. This in turn preserves the airway. While crowded teeth may be an epidemic, the real danger here is poor education in the orthodontic sphere on how to best approach and help make space for all of the teeth instead of closing that space by pulling teeth. Overcoming this epidemic requires a new approach that treats the root cause rather than symptoms. Educate on the reasons why it’s occurring and approach each case with the goal to preserve the airway, aid the jaw in forward growth, and work to keep all of the teeth. Afterall, pulling teeth just further collapses the oral structures and in turn reduces airway size, which we don’t want! 

Here’s to a bright future with wide airways, palates, and strong mandibles.