We all want to have a bright, healthy smile, right?
It’s the unspoken sign of health, happiness and friendship across the planet. Whether our motive is for the visual impact of a beautiful smile (guys, read handsome) or the logistic fact that crooked teeth are tougher to keep clean, having straight teeth is a universal desire.
But as the years pass, many of us find that our teeth are moving and NOT in the direction of that ideal, straight teeth smile.
Let’s take a look at some common reasons why teeth become crooked and more importantly what we can do to stop causing them to misalign. All this will head us ultimately toward how to fix crooked teeth without braces.
What causes teeth to move?
If we think about how braces, the universal ‘solution’ to straighten teeth, do their job, understanding what causes teeth to move becomes really clear. Teeth shift by gentle, persistent pressure. If the pressure is too strong or fast, then the tooth can become loose or get knocked out (think hockey for a painful visual).
It’s the gentle, slow, constant pressure that causes teeth to shift their position.
So how do we cause our teeth to shift?
We have identified two common culprits that cause teeth to shift over time. But before we detail them, we have to address what isn’t the cause of crooked teeth…
Contrary to popular culture, it’s not wisdom teeth.
Research shows that allowing your wisdom teeth to come into the mouth rather than having them removed does NOT cause other teeth to become crowded. We recently wrote two articles on this often misunderstood subject of wisdom teeth. One article details the common problem with having wisdom teeth removed and the other details the 5 main myths our culture believes around wisdom teeth.
So what does cause my teeth to shift?
To answer this question, we simply have to look at how we put gentle, regular pressure on our teeth.
It’s helpful to grasp that when teeth go crooked, it’s due to them crowding one another on the inside of the dental arch. Sure, there are examples of teeth being crooked outwardly in the mouth (most common with children and excessive thumb sucking). But most issues with crooked teeth are from the teeth crowding and overlapping inwardly, toward the tongue.
There are two main ways we cause crooked teeth.
1. Sleeping on your belly (i.e. face)
Sleeping on your face is a very real way to cause teeth to become crooked. Dr Hal Huggins shared this fact with us prior to his death in 2014. If you look at the structure of the human skull, the teeth do stick out a bit. So, sleeping on the face puts this gentle, consistent pressure on the teeth which can cause them to shift.
This risk is made even worse if you habitually put your arm or something firm under your head while sleeping. When you combine the gentle pressure with the fact that we are unconscious while asleep, sleeping on the face is an excellent ‘one, two punch’ to cause crooked teeth.
When you go to bed, have the intent to sleep on your back and/or side. If you find yourself in the night on your belly, notice how your face and jaw are distorted as you pick your head out of your drool puddle and shift position.
With regular intent to shift this habit, you can easily stop sleeping on your belly and stop causing this common cause of crooked teeth.
2. Leaning your face on your hand during the day
Quick body check… At this moment reading this article, are you sitting up straight or do you have your head resting on your hand/fist while leaning in toward your computer? Did you catch yourself resting your head in your hand?
With more and more of us spending our time in an office at a desk/computer, it’s no surprise that posture at work can be a culprit. Sitting at a desk can provoke poor sitting posture which results in a forward slump. When we get tired enough holding our heads up to the constant onslaught of gravity, we prop up our heads on our hand/fist.
Leaning on the hand/fist, we again have this perfect environment of gentle, persistent pressure on the lower face slowly pushing the teeth inward.
How much of your day do you spend in a forward dominated position?
What’s the fix?
If you spend plenty of time with forward focused attention on a computer or at a desk, try the following actions to help balance alignment. When you find yourself slumping forward, rather than just ‘sitting up straight’ like we were told as kids, notice the way your lower back and pelvis is oriented. I guarantee it’s rolled under you like you were sitting on your tail.
We want to realign our posture so our tail (if we had one) is behind us, rather than under us while we sit. This way, we have the proper base under us to better support the upper body in maintaining upright alignment.
Otherwise, if we just ‘sit up straight’, we’ll most likely find our heads resting back on our hand soon enough.
Here’s a helpful TedX video titled “Find your Primal Posture and Sit Without Back Pain” that will walk you through this process to realign your sitting posture to avoid the forward slump and resulting lean on the face that causes our teeth to misalign.
Having our lower body properly aligned will allow the upper body to naturally stack in a healthy way on top of a well positioned low body. Since becoming aware of the importance of low body posture for upper back/neck health, I have noticed that not only do I not lean on my face nearly as much, but I have more energy and greater mental clarity.
What to do if your neck gets fatigued
But my neck gets so tired. I know. It’s part of the reality of our forward oriented modern lifestyle.
This is really, really common. In fact, if you look around you, seeing people with a forward tilt to their body with the head jutting forward is super common. The bottom line is we lack muscular strength in our upper back and neck. Taken to the extreme, this results in the old people who literally can’t look at the beauty of the stars at night because they have lost their range of motion (and muscle tone) to extend their necks to look straight up.
So, go outside tonight and take a few minutes to look up at the stars by extending your neck. The added benefit is this action activates the area of the neck where our thyroid rests. And we could all use to take better care of our thyroid.
Here’s a video that will show you a simple exercise to regain range of motion and muscle tone to help maintain upright posture and remove neck pain.
If you are tech oriented and like coaching and feedback tools, here’s a simple device that will let you know when you are habituating the forward bend posture. Personally, neck pain is enough of a notification for me, but perhaps some of you would like a helpful tool like this.
But what can we do if our teeth are already crooked?
In an upcoming article, we will share techniques and strategies that will offer you solutions how to naturally straighten your teeth without braces. However, until we publish this other article, let’s take positive actions today and stop causing our teeth to become crooked.
Get off your face, whether it’s while sleeping or while sitting.
And please share this with your kids and grandkids. It’s a very real way for them to avoid the need for braces.
Helpful, Related Resources:
The Common, Unknown Risk of Having Wisdom Teeth Removed [article]
Uncovering the 5 Myths Around Wisdom Teeth Removal [article]
How to Straighten Teeth Without Braces [article]
Would you make your own braces if you knew how? [article]
How to Treat Your Own Neck Pain
Find Your Primal Posture and Sit Without Back Pain
Lumo Lift [app based postural tool]