3 Surprising Habits That Cause Crooked Teeth

TMJ graphic of jaw

Crooked teeth are often blamed on genetics, but a surprising number of cases of malocclusion may be at least partially attributable to everyday habits. To understand the impact of these habits, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of how the teeth move. They can move in two primary ways: Forcefully and suddenly, or gradually over time. Facial trauma, for example, can cause a tooth to drastically move in very little time. But it really doesn’t take much pressure for the teeth to shift; all that’s required is for the pressure to be applied for a substantial length of time. These habits are one reason why your teeth can shift out of place after orthodontic treatment, and why a bite alignment that was nearly normal in adolescence can become gradually worse over time.

1. Sleeping on your stomach

The majority of people sleep on their sides. Lying on one’s back is the second-most popular position, with the least common position being sleeping on the stomach. This last sleep habit is the most destructive—both in terms of neck pain and bite alignment. If you sleep on your face, the gentle pressure exerted on your teeth for hours every night is sufficient to shift them out of their proper alignment.

The best way to address this problem is to try sleeping on your back or side. Pile up extra pillows alongside your body to keep yourself in the right position. If you just can’t manage to fall asleep, consider looking for a pillow designed especially for stomach sleepers. It should feature cut-out areas for your mouth and nose, with support to either side.

2. Slouching

Slouching is another bad habit that can contribute to malocclusion over time. Specifically, slouching forward to rest your chin in your hand can exert gentle, yet steady pressure on your oral structures. It can also contribute to back pain, headaches, jaw pain, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.

3. Biting your lip

Oral habits of compulsion include nervous habits that people often engage in without realizing they’re doing it. Examples include tongue thrusting, lip biting or sucking, and thumb-sucking. Just like slouching and resting your chin in your hand, and like sleeping on your stomach, these oral habits of compulsion can lead to bite misalignment over time.

Tongue thrusting can be particularly problematic, as people often don’t realize they’re doing it. Tongue thrusting isn’t necessarily the active pushing of the tongue against the teeth. Rather, it means the tongue is improperly positioned while at rest. When you aren’t speaking or eating, your tongue should rest gently against your upper palate, with the tip of the tongue just behind your front teeth.

Get the smile you deserve

Whether you never had orthodontic aligners before, or your teeth have shifted out of place after your treatment, we can help you. Make an appointment for a consultation with Dr. Nick and Dr. Elliot at Long Island Implant and Cosmetic Dentistry, and let us know how we can help you get a smile you’ll love. We’re proud Invisalign providers and smile makeover experts. Call our Suffolk County cosmetic dentistry office at 631.296.0588.

More on what causes crooked teeth:

  1. American Dental Association, Malocclusion, http://www.ada.org/en/science-research/dental-practice-parameters/malocclusion
  2. Stanford Children’s Health, Malocclusion, http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=malocclusion-90-P01860

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Jacky Gale

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