Crowded teeth: what is it and how is it corrected?

28 October · 5 minutes

Dental crowding, also known as "overlapping teeth," is one of the most common dental misalignments and it is the number one source of visits to the orthodontist. We give you all the explanations about why dental crowding happens and the different alternatives available to treat crowded teeth from childhood to adulthood.

What is teeth overcrowding?

Crowding is a dental malposition that is caused by a lack of space, which in turn shifts the teeth so that they are not aligned correctly.

It is common in children from the age of six, when the baby teeth begin to fall to make room for the permanent ones. However, it is also common to see adults with crowded teeth.

It is important to remember that dental crowding is not only an aesthetic problem; it is also considered a health problem, as crowded teeth are more difficult to clean.

Smile with mild tooth overcrowding

What causes crowded teeth?

Crowded teeth are usually caused by the lack of space in the denture, but not only, since the origin may vary. Some of the most frequent causes of overcrowded teeth are:

  • The jaw being too small
  • The teeth are larger than the jaw, so they do not fit comfortably
  • Ogival or narrow palate
  • Supernumerary teeth
  • Lingual habits
  • Missing or broken teeth: the teeth do not stay aligned and shift position

Types of crowding

We can also classify dental crowding according to its origin. We can distinguish three types.


This type of misalignment has a hereditary origin. If your jaw is too small, it is likely that your children will suffer from the same problem. We recommend that you take your children for a first visit with a specialist from the age of 6 so that they can evaluate their teeth and take early measures to facilitate treatment.


The second type of teeth crowding is caused by poor oral habits. This is, for example, in the case of children who suck their thumb or who have a prolonged use of a pacifier.

It can also occur as a result of a premature loss of baby teeth. The permanent teeth are not yet ready to come in, which gives the adjoining teeth time to move.


Finally, when the wisdom teeth erupt without having enough space, they can displace all of the existing teeth and cause general crowding.

X-Ray image of teeth structure

Degrees of crowding

Before finding a solution for the dental overcrowding, the degree of complexity of the case being treated must first be assessed in order to offer an effective and adequate solution.

During your first visit with your orthodontist, your orthodontist will be able to tell you if you suffer from mild, moderate or severe crowding, after an intraoral X-ray, a detailed dental study and a 3D scan.

Mild teeth crowding

We consider this degree when there is less than 3mm missing of space in one tooth on the lower or upper jaw.

Moderate teeth crowding

We call it moderate crowding as 2 or 3 teeth present misalignment in either the upper or lower jaw with 3-5 mm missing jaw-space.

Severe teeth crowding 

We consider a case to be severe when seeing teeth placed outside the jaw line and the gaps pass the 6mm mark.

What problems can occur if crowded teeth are not treated?

You might mistakenly think that overcrowding is just a cosmetic issue. However, a misaligned bite can lead to many health issues. These are some of the most frequent problems that can result from crowded teeth and will end up requiring treatment:

  • Poor dental hygiene: being more difficult to access all areas of the teeth and use dental floss correctly, it causes the accumulation of bacterial plaque, in turn increasing the likelihood of developing cavities and tartar. You also have to remember that plaque is responsible for bad breath.
  • In the most severe cases of crowding where dental hygiene is difficult, the patient may end up suffering from inflammation of the gums and other periodontal diseases.
  • The enamel and teeth wear out and deteriorate more quickly.
  • The overlap can also lead to more serious occlusion problems.

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Patient attended by dentists

Treatments for crowding teeth

As we have discussed, it all depends on the degree of difficulty of each case, so it is important to attend a first consultation in person to obtain an adequate answer. We will explain below how to fix overcrowded teeth depending on the degree:

Mild cases

If the overlap is slight, that is, if less than 3 mm is missing from the dental arch, one of the options to consider is the use of dental veneers. Made of ceramic or composite materials, dental veneers adapt perfectly to the color of the teeth for a very pleasant aesthetic and natural result.

It should also be taken into account that placing a veneer is done in a single session at the dentist, which allows a record time treatment for teeth crowding. Veneers can also be applied to a single tooth.

Moderate or severe cases

In the most complex cases, orthodontics becomes the most effective overcrowded teeth treatment. This can be accomplished by using various techniques, as we will see below, to obtain satisfactory results according to the case of each patient.

There are many orthodontic treatments available today to treat crowding; traditional metal braces, aesthetic brackets, lingual appliances or invisible aligners.

Treatments for dental crowding according to patient age

Treating overcrowded teeth in children

A first visit to the orthodontist is recommended from the age of six, to monitor the development of the teeth and jaw bones. If your orthodontist detects a problem before all the permanent teeth have erupted, such as a jaw that is too narrow, the orthodontist will recommend starting interceptive orthodontic treatment for your child.

Girl with braces

Interceptive orthodontics

Interceptive orthodontics are a type of orthodontics reserved for children who do not yet have all their permanent teeth. It intervenes in the development of the maxillary bones, and in this case treats the lack of jaw space from an early age, with the use of specific devices.

Interceptive Orthodontics is especially necessary to treat children’s overcrowding in cases where a jaw that is too narrow, or there is a problem with the palate.

Correcting teeth overcrowded in adults and adolescents

Once the permanent teeth have erupted, around the age of 12, corrective orthodontics can be used. There are many different devices, depending on the needs and budget of each.

  • Traditional metal braces: Probably the best known and most used device to date. The braces correct the crowded teeth with metal brackets that are placed on each tooth and connected by a metal arch that exerts continuous pressure until the perfect alignment is achieved.
  • Aesthetic braces: Like the previous type of braces, Aesthetic braces can be made of sapphire or ceramic materials for a more aesthetic treatment. This option tends to be more popular among adults.
  • Self-ligating braces: Made of metal or transparent materials, their brackets are what differentiates them from traditional brackets, by enclosing the archwire, without the need to use elastics to fix the appliance.
  • Lingual Braces: Lingual orthodontics is similar to traditional braces, except that it is placed on the inside of the teeth.
  • Invisible aligners: Clear aligners revolutionized the orthodontic market a few years ago with an innovative system that allows patients to align and treat bite problems in a comfortable and aesthetic way. The invisible aligners can be removed during meals and brushing the teeth for greater comfort and superior hygiene. These have become the most popular orthodontic options for crowded teeth.

Discover why Impress is leader in invisible orthodontics

Woman with clear aligners

Use of retainers at the end of treatment

Orthodontic treatment does not end once the braces are removed. It is necessary to wear a retainer to keep the results and the teeth correctly aligned. The teeth have a certain "memory" and tend to return to their original position after orthodontic treatment. In addition, they are constantly moving throughout life, so it is important to wear a post-treatment orthodontic retainer.

Associated Techniques

Some cases of overcrowded teeth need extra help to achieve correct alignment. The orthodontist can prescribe the following techniques.

IPR (Interproximal Reduction)

Dental stripping, or interproximal enamel reduction (IPR), is a procedure that aims to create space between the teeth in the phase prior to orthodontic treatment, only in patients with milder crowding. The dentist files some of the teeth in a controlled way to reduce their width by 0.2 to 0.5 millimeters. It is a painless procedure that is performed without anesthesia.

Dental Extractions

When the dental crowding is more severe, the orthodontist may have to remove one or more teeth to gain space and ensure the perfect alignment. Tooth extraction is performed by a dental surgeon and can be done under local anesthesia with or without sedation.

Impress: How to fix overcrowded teeth without braces

Clear aligners are the latest technology in removable orthodontic treatment and offer numerous advantages for fixing crowding. Impress aligners help correct the appearance of your smile in a comfortable and discreet way, making them a great solution to crowded teeth without the need for braces.

The medical focus that Impress offers is designed to guarantee the best results and having certified orthodontists examine, design and follow your case is essential to avoid health risks.

Enjoy a perfect smile

Impress clear aligners

The quality of the materials used in Impress invisible aligners makes our treatment just as effective as with traditional orthodontic devices, offering advantages in terms of oral hygiene. It also prevents wounds and sores caused by metal braces. In addition, you can enjoy eating without restrictions, because you can take it off for a while.

Before you start your invisible orthodontic treatment at Impress, our specialists will guide you through the necessary pre-treatments so that you can have a perfect smile without complications and in the easiest possible way.

If you need more information, you can contact us by phone/Whatsapp on +44 20 3808 1072, by email at uk@smile2impress.com or simply by filling in the form on our website and making your booking. We look forward to seeing you at your nearest clinic!

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Frequently asked questions about crowded teeth

How to prevent teeth crowding?

It depends on the type of crowding. If the dental malposition is hereditary, it is more difficult to act. However, we recommend a first visit to the orthodontist around the age of 6 to check the correct development of the jaw and teeth. Secondary and tertiary crowding can be avoided to some extent: - Avoid giving your child a pacifier or bottle until later in life. Also, help them gradually stop thumb sucking. - Visit the dentist every 6 to 12 months to check your teeth and the appearance of your wisdom teeth if you still have them. - Always go to an experienced orthodontist: it is important to take an X-ray to detect the presence of wisdom teeth, as you may have to remove them before starting your orthodontic treatment. - Use retainers correctly after your treatment

How long does it take to fix crowded teeth?

Treatment duration depends on the complexity of the case and the orthodontic device used, some patients will need 6 months while other cases may take up to 24 months.

Can teeth crowding cause pain?

Since oral hygiene can be obstructed by the misplaced teeth it can lead to gum infections, cavities and more serious problems that may be painful.

Can wisdom teeth cause crowding?

There is some evidence that wisdom teeth can be a cause of overcrowding in the long run since they will slowly move the rest of the teeth forward.

Can veneers fix crowding?

This is an effective solution for mild cases of overcrowding since it can be done during the consultation visit.


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