7 Habits That Cause Crooked Teeth

Crooked teeth are a common dental issue affecting people of all ages. While genetics play a significant role in the alignment of your teeth, certain habits can also contribute to crookedness. Understanding these habits and how to avoid them can help you maintain a straight, healthy smile. At Hillsdale Orthodontics, we’re dedicated to helping you achieve and maintain optimal dental health. Here are seven habits that can cause crooked teeth and tips on preventing them.

1. Thumb Sucking

How It Affects Teeth

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex in infants and young children, but prolonged thumb sucking can negatively impact dental alignment. The constant pressure exerted by the thumb can cause the front teeth to push forward and the jaw to misalign.

Prevention Tips

Encourage Alternative Comforts: Offer a blanket or a soft toy to comfort your child instead of allowing thumb sucking.

Positive Reinforcement: Praise and reward your child when they avoid thumb-sucking, creating a positive association with stopping the habit.

Consult a Professional: If thumb sucking continues beyond age four, consult a pediatric dentist or orthodontist for advice and possible interventions.

2. Pacifier Use

How It Affects Teeth

Like thumb sucking, extended use of pacifiers can lead to crooked teeth and bite problems. The pacifier exerts similar pressure on the teeth and jaw, potentially causing alignment issues.

Prevention Tips

Limit Use: Limit pacifier use to bedtime only and gradually phase it out as your child ages.

Offer Alternatives: Use other soothing methods like rocking or singing to calm your child.

Seek Guidance: If your child relies heavily on a pacifier, talk to your dentist about strategies to reduce dependency.

3. Mouth Breathing

How It Affects Teeth

Mouth breathing, often due to chronic nasal congestion or allergies, can lead to dental issues. Breathing through the mouth can cause the tongue to rest lower in the mouth, which affects the development of the upper and lower jaw, leading to misalignment.

Prevention Tips

Address Underlying Issues: Treat nasal congestion or allergies to encourage nasal breathing.

Practice Exercises: Encourage your child to practice breathing through their nose during the day.

Consult a Specialist: If mouth breathing persists, consult an ENT specialist or orthodontist to explore further treatment options.

4. Tongue Thrusting

How It Affects Teeth

Tongue thrusting occurs when the tongue pushes against the teeth during swallowing or speaking. This constant pressure can cause the teeth to move out of alignment over time.

Prevention Tips

Monitor Swallowing Patterns: Watch for signs of tongue thrusting, such as a noticeable forward movement when swallowing.

Speech Therapy: A speech therapist can help correct tongue thrusting habits with targeted exercises.

Orthodontic Consultation: Early orthodontic intervention can help address tongue thrusting and prevent long-term dental issues.

5. Nail Biting

How It Affects Teeth

Nail biting is a common habit that can put undue stress on teeth. Repeated pressure and grinding can cause teeth to shift out of alignment and even lead to chipped teeth.

Prevention Tips

Keep Nails Trimmed: Short nails are less tempting to bite.

Use Bitter Polish: Apply a bitter-tasting nail polish to discourage nail biting.

Stress Management: Identify and address stressors contributing to the habit. Techniques like mindfulness or counseling can help reduce nail biting.

6. Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

How It Affects Teeth

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, often occurs during sleep and can cause significant damage to teeth. Constant grinding can wear down tooth enamel, change the shape of teeth, and lead to misalignment.

Prevention Tips

Wear a Mouthguard: A custom-fitted mouthguard can protect your teeth from grinding damage.

Reduce Stress: Since stress is a common cause of bruxism, stress-reducing techniques like meditation, exercise, and adequate sleep can be beneficial.

Dental Checkups: Regular dental visits can help monitor and manage bruxism effectively.

7. Poor Dental Hygiene

How It Affects Teeth

Neglecting dental hygiene can lead to various oral health problems, including crooked teeth. Plaque buildup, cavities, and gum disease can all cause teeth to shift out of place.

Prevention Tips

Brush and Floss Regularly: Brush at least twice a day and floss daily to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Use Fluoride Toothpaste: Fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevent decay.

Regular Dental Visits: Schedule regular checkups and cleanings with your dentist to maintain optimal oral health and catch any issues early.

Impact of Poor Oral Hygiene on Dental Health and Permanent Teeth

Maintaining good oral hygiene is critical for overall dental health, especially when preserving permanent teeth and preventing common issues like gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss. Neglecting oral hygiene can lead to severe consequences, impacting your smile’s health and appearance. Let’s explore the importance of oral hygiene and its direct impact on dental health, permanent teeth, and related conditions.

Oral Hygiene and Its Role in Preventing Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, also known as cavities, occurs when the enamel, the hard outer layer of your teeth, is damaged by acids produced by bacteria in plaque. Regular brushing and flossing help remove plaque and prevent these bacteria from producing acids that can erode the enamel. Without proper oral hygiene, plaque buildup can lead to tooth decay, causing pain and sensitivity and potentially leading to more severe dental issues.

Protecting Permanent Teeth Through Consistent Oral Care

Permanent teeth, unlike baby teeth, are meant to last a lifetime. Once you lose a permanent tooth, it doesn’t grow back, making it crucial to protect them through consistent oral care. Poor dental hygiene can lead to gum disease, affecting not only your gums but also the supporting structures of your teeth. Advanced gum disease, or periodontitis, can result in tooth loss, severely impacting your ability to chew and speak properly.

Understanding Gum Disease and Its Prevention

Gum disease starts as gingivitis, characterized by red, swollen gums that may bleed easily. If left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis, where the gums pull away from the teeth, forming pockets that become infected. Maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing twice daily, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist regularly can help prevent gum disease. Early detection and treatment are essential to stop the progression of gum disease and protect your dental health.

Misaligned and Upper Teeth Concerns

Misaligned teeth, also known as malocclusion, can make it harder to maintain proper oral hygiene. Crooked or crowded teeth accumulate more areas for plaque, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Similarly, issues with the upper teeth, such as overbites, can complicate cleaning efforts. Orthodontic treatments, like braces, can help correct these issues, making it easier to keep your teeth clean and healthy.

The Connection Between Oral Health and Overall Well-being

Good oral health is not just about having a bright smile; it’s also crucial for your overall well-being. Poor oral hygiene can lead to infections that may spread to other body parts, contributing to health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory issues. Proper oral hygiene can reduce the risk of these systemic conditions and improve your overall health.

Preventing Tooth Loss Through Proper Care

Tooth loss can result from various factors, including advanced tooth decay, gum disease, and trauma. However, most cases of tooth loss are preventable with proper oral care. Regular dental check-ups allow for early detection and treatment of potential issues, significantly reducing the risk of tooth loss. In addition to brushing and flossing, fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash can help strengthen your teeth and prevent decay.

Addressing Orthodontic Treatment for Dental Health Improvement

Orthodontic treatment is not just about aesthetics; it plays a significant role in improving dental health. Correcting misaligned teeth and bite issues can enhance your ability to clean your teeth effectively, reducing the risk of cavities and gum disease. If you’re considering orthodontic treatment, consult your orthodontist to discuss how it can benefit your overall dental health.

Maintaining a Straight Smile

Preventing crooked teeth involves understanding and avoiding habits that can negatively impact dental alignment. By being mindful of these seven habits—thumb sucking, pacifier use, mouth breathing, tongue thrusting, nail-biting, teeth grinding, and poor dental hygiene—you can take proactive steps to protect your smile. At Hillsdale Orthodontics, we are committed to helping you and your family achieve and maintain straight, healthy teeth. If you have concerns about crooked teeth or need guidance on improving oral habits, please contact our team. We support you on your journey to a beautiful, confident smile.


Picture of Dr. Alix J. Leemin DMD, MS

Dr. Alix J. Leemin DMD, MS

As a nutty overachiever, Dr. Leemin never lost sight of her childhood dreams of becoming a smartypants orthodontist. After graduating from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts with Honors, she embarked on her career in dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated #1 in her class. Feeling just a little too ambitious, she then completed 2.5 years of additional training at OHSU to become an orthodontic specialist.

Stanford University – Bachelor of Arts with Honors
Univ. of Pennsylvania – Doctor of Dental Medicine
Oregon Health & Science Univ. – Master of Science
Oregon Health & Science Univ. – Certificate in Orthodontics

Picture of Dr. Alix J. Leemin DMD, MS

Dr. Alix J. Leemin DMD, MS

As a nutty overachiever, Dr. Leemin never lost sight of her childhood dreams of becoming a smartypants orthodontist. After graduating from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts with Honors, she embarked on her career in dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated #1 in her class. Feeling just a little too ambitious, she then completed 2.5 years of additional training at OHSU to become an orthodontic specialist.

Stanford University
Bachelor of Arts with Honors
Univ. of Pennsylvania
Doctor of Dental Medicine
Oregon Health & Science Univ.
Master of Science
Oregon Health & Science Univ.
Certificate in Orthodontics

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