Studies of identical twins and other family members have shown that dental irregularities of
“number, size, position, as well as the timing of development” 1 are hereditary. There are a few
factors that determine whether you have crowded or spaced teeth, a bite problem
(malocclusion as dentists call it), or an impacted tooth:
Teeth feel pressure!
Your tongue, cheeks, and lips all push on your teeth in different directions. Since teeth
move in response to pressure, your teeth end up where these forces are in balance. The result
is often crowded teeth in people with tight or firm lips and cheeks. People with stronger or
larger tongues frequently have spaces.
Teeth also respond to the forces YOU put on them. If someone sucks their thumb often
and for long enough, their teeth won’t come together in the front (this is called an open bite).
The same thing will happen if you have any other habit that involves touching your teeth: nail
biting, chewing on a pencil or tooth pick.
Bone Structure Matters
Severe bite problems are often caused by a disproportion in the size and/or position of the
upper and lower jaws. This can easily be seen to run in the family: strong and weak appearing
chins are the most obvious of these disproportions. Orthodontic treatment may camouflage
these problems, but jaw surgery is the only way to fix the underlying cause.
Teeth find their positions in the mouth based on where the tooth bud forms inside your jaw.
When the tooth bud cells are too far from their ideal positions or when they’re at an angle, the
tooth often erupt in an abnormal position, become impacted, or cause baby teeth to be lost
prematurely. Many of these problems are unavoidable and have to be treated later with
braces. However, some issues can be eliminated or allow for decreased orthodontic treatment
time later if caught early by an orthodontist. That’s why the American Association of
Orthodontists recommends having your child evaluated at age 7!