Common Orthodontic Problems: What to Do

If you have visited our website, it’s likely either you or your child has one or more of these common orthodontic problems. Orthodontic problems can afflict people of any age, and sometimes even those who had braces when they were younger. Teeth can be pushed out of alignment by all sorts of factors, such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, unbalanced forces between the tongue and cheek muscles, or even some seemingly regular activities like frequent biting and chewing. Missing teeth can also contribute to gradual misalignment of the remaining teeth. Do you want to know what to do about your orthodontic woes? There are treatment options for all of these issues, solutions that Dr. Yina Li and her talented team of professionals can provide.



The Ideal Bite

In an ideal bite, the teeth are all well-aligned with upper teeth just slightly overlapping the lower teeth all around the U-shape of the mouth. The cusps or pointed ends of the top teeth should fit perfectly between two teeth in the bottom. Most people associate orthodontics with straightening out crooked teeth, but there is actually much more to the discipline than meets the eye. Though straight teeth are certainly a goal of many orthodontic treatments we perform at Embrace Orthodontics, we also focus on positioning the jaw, bite patterns, and spacing of teeth.

Crowding or Crooked Teeth

Crowded or crooked teeth are common in kids and adults alike. Teeth may erupt and grow to become overlapped, twisted, angled, or rotated, becoming crowded or crooked. Signs of the upper teeth becoming crowded are the front teeth sitting high or pointing outwards. In the lower teeth and jaw it is common to find overlapped front teeth. The longer this problem is left to its own devices, the worse it can grow, with oral or general health problems resulting. Causes of crowded or crooked teeth include:

  • Thumb sucking
  • Pacifier sucking
  • Tooth decay
  • Insufficient dental development
  • Genetics
  • Injury

Crooked or crowded teeth can be detrimental to oral hygiene, since it can become harder to clean the teeth effectively. It can also make chewing more difficult. 


In severe cases, incorrectly aligned teeth can affect speech, and extra pressure can be placed on teeth, as well as gums and jaw muscles. This can lead to complications ranging from headaches, cracked teeth, jaw strain, or worse. Last but not least, a crooked smile can significantly affect an individual’s social confidence and self-esteem.



Opposite to crowding or crooked teeth, people can also often present with spacing problems, i.e. gaps in between teeth. Oftentimes, spacing of teeth is not caused by a specific reason. Some people are more prone to have spacing problems. Factors that can contribute to spacing include:

  • Tongue thrusting
  • Finger sucking
  • Thick gum tissue in between teeth, especially in the front teeth
  • Missing teeth

Tooth spacing problems can worsen over time, because teeth can continue to drift as we get older. That’s why it is so important to continuously wear retainers after one’s orthodontic treatment, to keep the space closed! 




An overbite is an orthodontic problem in which the upper front teeth noticeably protrude too far in front of the lower teeth. People with this problem often describe it as “upper teeth stick out too much”, “buck teeth”, or simply “have an overbite”. Overbites are frequently caused by the following conditions:

  • Thumb-sucking, especially when it continues past the age of 3
  • Overuse of Pacifier, especially if use past the age of 3
  • Excessive nail-biting or lip biting
  • Hereditary factors, such as smaller lower jaw
  • Missing or crowded teeth


While mild overbites are not uncommon, more severe overbites can have multiple risks associated with them, such as increased risk of gum diseases, teeth grinding, teeth enamel wear, discomfort while eating, speech problem, jaw pain etc.




An underbite occurs when the lower front teeth protrude beyond the upper front teeth, reversing their normal relationship completely. It can undermine the appearance of the face, and contribute to a number of adverse health effects. Underbites are often caused by malformation in either or both of the jaw bones, and usually has a strong genetic predisposition, i.e. it tends to be inherited from one or both parents. Other less common causes of underbite are:

  • Mouth-distorting habits such as thumb-sucking, pacifier-sucking, or bottle-feeding beyond infant years.
  • Injury
  • Tumors

Correcting an underbite can do a great deal for oral hygiene and general oral health. Underbite treatment reduces strain on teeth, jaws, and jaw muscles. Common treatments for underbites include:

  • Reverse pull face mask. This device, with a pad on the chin and another on the forehead, is connected by a vertical frame. It pulls the upper jaw up so that it aligns with the lower jaw.
  • Chin cap. This device fits onto the chin and lower jaw and prevents it from growing to take the wrong shape, and works best on patients young enough to not have all their permanent teeth yet.



A crossbite is a general term for a type of malocclusion in which upper teeth fit inside of lower teeth. There are two varieties, the anterior crossbite and the posterior crossbite. The anterior crossbite affects the upper and lower front teeth, and the posterior crossbite affects the back teeth. A crossbite is not to be confused with an underbite, when the entirety of the top row of teeth are behind the bottom teeth. A crossbite can signify issues with the jaw growing lopsidedly or shifting to one side, may cause tooth enamel wear, or traumatic biting leading to gum problems. Obviously, these are issues best tackled at a young age.

Palatal expanders alone or in combination with braces or aligners can treat crossbites, depending on the severity of the situation.

These common orthodontic issues often present early on in life, so we recommend bringing your child to the orthodontist by age 7. Though these issues are common, they are not something to be taken lightly. Protect your health and your family's health by investing in necessary and quality orthodontic care at the right time. Timely intervention can protect your child from years of discomfort and be unhappy with their smiles. Additionally, it can prevent the need for more complicated treatments later in life. Embrace Orthodontics is the right choice to put a perfect smile on the faces of your family at any age. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help.