Teeth crowding happens when emerging teeth grow too close together and start to overlap. Crowding can cause cosmetic self-consciousness and bite issues that complicate chewing or holding your mouth comfortably closed. The cosmetic issues are particularly apparent when the crowding occurs on your upper jaw.
There are a few different ways your cosmetic dentist can fix crowded teeth on the upper jaw. The potential procedures vary according to the severity of the crowding and any other dental issues present.
A palatal expander is a rigid dental device that fits into the roof of the mouth and loops over the molars for stability. There is a hole in the center of the expander that fits a key, which has to be turned daily to expand the plate and exert outward pressure on the upper teeth.
Expanders are used for teeth crowding when the cause is a narrow palate that didn't allow enough room for the teeth to erupt properly. If your dentist doesn't widen the palate before orthodontics, the teeth still won't have room to properly move into position and the braces likely won't help the crowding.
If you are an adult and your palate and teeth have already fully stopped growing, your dentist might opt to surgically insert the expander for even more stability. Note that with either type of expander, the months-long process can leave you with a gap between your front teeth. This is normal and will be corrected once you move on to braces.
Crowding isn't always due to palate sizing issues. Sometimes you simply have teeth that came in quite far from the correct position and that tooth then caused the other teeth to shift out of place. If you have one tooth that's causing most of your crowding issues, your dentist might opt to extract that tooth then straighten the rest out with braces.
After the tooth is extracted, your dentist can install a mini dental implant root that will hold a position open for a dental replacement after the braces schedule is complete. Without the mini implant, your natural teeth could again shift out of position and take over the spot where the problem tooth was supposed to be.
Braces are usually the last step in treating crowding regardless of whether you needed palatal expansion, dental extraction, or both. Your dentist might advise metal braces or Invisalign clear braces for your treatment.
Clear braces are preferable to many adults because the trays are less noticeable to other people. The trays are also removable while eating, which is more comfortable, but you should still wear your brace trays as much as possible to shorten your treatment time.