The Dentist From a Child' Point of View

Treating Crowded Teeth With Braces And Retainers

Crowded teeth can be caused by a small jawbone, thumb sucking, abnormal spacing of the permanent teeth, irregular tooth size, and advancing age. In addition to self-confidence problems, overcrowding can cause excessive plaque buildup, periodontal disease, speech problems, tooth decay, and even headaches and jaw pain. Depending upon the severity and cause of your crowded teeth, your orthodontist will either recommend braces or just a retainer. 


Metal wire and bracket braces are the most common orthodontic treatment options for dental crowding, especially severe crowding. Your orthodontist will determine which type of braces you should get based on whether your crowding is affecting your front teeth, your back teeth, your lower teeth, or all your teeth.

Braces exert varying amounts of pressure on your crowded teeth so that they gently change position. While metal braces are most often recommended for pediatric patients, older adults may opt for ceramic or clear braces to treat dental overcrowding.

In certain cases, your orthodontist will recommend that you have a couple of teeth extracted before getting your braces as this may help improve your results. If your third molars are impacted, your orthodontist may refer you to an oral surgeon to have them removed prior to your treatment. 


For milder cases of dental crowding, the dentist may recommend only a retainer. The dentist will probably recommend a removable retainer; however, lingual retainers may be recommended for adults as they are applied behind the teeth and are less obvious.

Retainers can be more cost-effective than braces in the treatment of overcrowding, and patients with retainers do not need to visit the orthodontist as often as they would if they had braces. Unlike braces, retainers do not require periodic tightening. 

People who wear retainers are advised to always remove them before brushing their teeth. If the retainer is not removed prior to brushing, portions of the teeth will be missed during oral care. Also, if the retainer is left in place when brushing, the toothbrush may damage or bend the metal. The retainer should be brushed separately with toothpaste, and then when the retainer is put back in the case, it should be placed in water mixed with a small amount of baking soda or white vinegar. 

If you have overcrowded teeth, make an appointment with an orthodontist to learn about treatment options. If overcrowding of the teeth is not treated early on, the risk for dental decay and periodontal disease is higher.