Ask An Expert: How Do I Fix My Crooked Smile?

For those who've had braces, it's usually an experience best left in the past-we have enough awkward pictures and yearbooks if we ever feel nostalgic. But even after all of that effort, our teeth have a sneaky habit of moving around and messing up our smile. In response to our post, Are Your Teeth Moving?, we received a lot of questions concerning why this happens and what to do when it does. That's why we reached out to Beverly Hills, CA, cosmetic dentist Arthur Glosman, DDS, to find out.

Dr. Glosman says there are many factors that cause our teeth to move, “Teeth need to have teeth on either side to stay in place, so if they don't, they can move. Teeth can also move from excessive pressure from the tongue. For example, if you snore and have a large tongue, your lower teeth can collapse inward. Also, if you grind your teeth, then there's the potential for teeth to move or shift as well.”

One reader, Whitney, asks, I had braces when I was in high school and I am noticing my front lower teeth are starting to shift and crowd each other, will a new fitted retainer do the job to get them back in place or will I have to do braces again or Invisalign?

“Normally, when kids or adults get braces, they'll have to wear a retainer for the rest of their lives,” says Dr. Glosman. “Teeth have a little bit of memory in them, so they can begin to shift back into the crooked alignment that they used to be in [if you don't wear a retainer]."

If you need to straighten out your teeth again, but want to avoid the dreaded “brace face” in your adult years, Dr. Glosman recommends Invisalign or veneers. “With veneers, you can make them permanently white and give them a nicer shape. They also lock your teeth into place.” Veneers are a good option because they give you the artistic freedom to create the smile you want.

Another question comes from UMcane07, who asks, I recently had my remaining wisdom teeth extracted. How long will it take for my front teeth to move and adjust to the new space?

Dr. Glosman says that this is a myth. “Having wisdom teeth removed is not going to affect the alignment of your front teeth. It's really not going to make any type of difference, he says. “If you remove your wisdom teeth at an older age, your teeth aren't going to go back into the spaces that they used to be, so removing them will not bring them back to alignment.”

We hope these answers help! Keep sending us those questions on Facebook and Twitter, and we'll keep getting you expert advice.

Related Links:
Study: A Softer Diet Has Crowded Our Teeth
Improve Your Diet For Healthier Teeth
Make Your New Smile Last Longer
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12 comments | Post a comment

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Dr. Laurence Rifkin
Cosmetic Dentist - Beverly Hills, CA
I agree with Dr. Goldstein completely. There are many options to cosmetic treatments and every patient should understand their options completely by reading about them and seeking multiple opinions before embarking on any of them. The experienced dentist will share this information with the patient and always attempt to perform the least complex and least invasive type of treatment that will accomplish the goals of treatment. Remember, any cosmetic treatment must be performed on a foundation of health and function first and foremost. Ask your dentist for photographic before and after cases that show a variety of options to treatment that they perform. Never be reluctant to seek multiple opinions by other dentists. It’s your mouth and you should feel comfortable that you made the best decision for your health and smile.
Posted February 28, 2012 1:24 AM EST

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Dr. Ronald Goldstein
Cosmetic Dentists - Atlanta, GA
I recommend to anyone who 'hates their smile' to not wait to find out what the many options one can have to improve it. And some options are really economical even as a compromise... And seek several opinions from dentists that really do a great deal of cosmetic dentistry. Ask for a short and long term plan. I have changed the smiles of a number of men and women who asked for 5 and 10 year plans who were extremely happy at the end of their treatment. Also go on the websites of the dentists to see what they do, and look at their them with others so you feel confident with his or office. And ask for options...not just one plan but alternative and even compromise plans. Any dentist who is concerned about your overall oral health will be happy to supply these options for you. And, again, check out my consumer book, Change Your Smile, from Amazon to give you the best information about all the options before you make your appointment...this way you will be knowledgeable about not only your choices but other possible treatments that can make the difference between an ordinary, a good, and an exceptional new smile!
Posted February 27, 2012 11:30 AM EST
Wow! Thanks so much to both of these Doctors. So much information to look into! I've been giving a smile makeover some thought for quite some time as I hate my tiny teeth!!
Posted February 27, 2012 6:03 AM EST
I never had braces as a child however; had a little crowding up top and moderate on the bottom. I just finished invisalign over 11 months, I had to change trays every 2 weeks. The uppers were finished in 5 months and the lowers took the entire 11 months. I now sleep in my retainers. It's definitely worth it if you want to straighten your teeth as an adult with minimal change in your appearance and, after wearing the trays every day for a year, sleeping in them is a breeze.Hope that helps!
Posted February 27, 2012 5:20 AM EST

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Dr. Ronald Goldstein
Cosmetic Dentists - Atlanta, GA
there are so many options for a crooked smile from orthodontics to veneers or crowns or even cosmetic contouring in some cases....the best approach to this problem is to get several opinions before making up your mind as to the best approach for you. The best choice will always be orthodontics either with ceramic brackets or Invisalign as the most popular treatments. If you must compromise then you really need to know the plus and the minus of each treatment. So start with your dentist and go from there. You might also want to get a copy of Change Your Smile from Amazon...I list all the advantages and disadvantages to each of the choices, plus the maintenance required and a realistic range of fees. You'll see photos of the before and after of each treatment for most every esthetic problem...a wise investment for under $30...and the best news all the profits I make go to a wonderful charity, Tomorrow's Smiles...which helps deserving teens get the smile they need to suceed in life.
Posted February 26, 2012 3:31 PM EST
Dr. David Frey
Porcelain veneers are a wonderful way to make smaller teeth look larger. I wrote a scientific article on exactly this topic in 2009 that was published in the Dental Tribune which is read by thousands of dentists. You are correct that a gingivectomy can help increase the size of your teeth. We use a diode laser to achieve this. Many times coupling the gum sculpting with correcting the bite will also help to allow the dentist to make bigger teeth. The dentist can open the vertical dimension of the bite and allow the teeth to come together sooner. This will allow more teeth to show and less gum thus bringing your smile into a better proportion. Many patients fly from around the world to have me correct this exactly this condition. Good luck. Dr. David Frey
Posted February 24, 2012 5:43 PM EST
Dr. Frey,Thanks for the info! I have a small mouth with very small teeth and a gummy smile, would i be a candidate for veneers to correct the gummy smile or what are some other options? Ive also heard about a gumectomy which I've been trying too look more into, what kind of cost am I looking at with these procedures?
Posted February 24, 2012 11:55 AM EST
Dr. David Frey
If a patient wants to have a straight, beautiful smile, it is important for the patient to know all the pros and cons. Porcelain Veneers is a great procedure to straighten teeth if a patient wants to correct a crooked smile or a smile with gaps. It takes only a couple of visits and is perfect for adults who have no desire to wear braces for an extended period of time. Patients with worn, discolored, mal-shaped, or fractured teeth are perfect candidates for porcelain veneers. Orthodontics is definitely a more idealistic way to correct a crooked smile especially on teens since you do not have to re-shape or re-contour the smile. Many problems can occur with orthodontics that you should be aware of. Root resorption which is seen on xrays after patients have undergone orthodontics can cause a teeth to get loose and be suseptible to periodontal disease. Orthodontics takes many visits and can be very painful. Good luck! Dr. David Frey
Posted February 24, 2012 5:14 AM EST
Sarah- Thanks so much for all of the information! It's definitely nice to hear from someone who has actually gone through the process. I am absolutely going to ask my dentist about it after hearing from you. Thanks again!
Posted February 23, 2012 4:08 AM EST
Oops I forgot to answer one of your questions! They tell you to wear them as much as humanly possible- like at least 21 hours a day. I only go to get fitted for a new retainer once a month so towards the end of the month before I go I can usually keep them out for awhile without my teeth hurting when I put them back in but def after I get a new one I have to wear it all the time or else I have trouble getting it to fit properly. My boyfriends sister only did a six month treatment and she went every two weeks to get new retainers so she literally had to wear them all the time between appts. Again, sounds like a lot of work and is sometimes annoying but I still recommend it!
Posted February 22, 2012 12:11 PM EST
Sjd- I am 27 and have invisalign now. I did have metal braces when I was younger but had to have them removed before I completed the treatment. Of course it always bothered me so I looked into invisalign. My teeth weren't horrible - one tooth kind of being pushed out of place on the top and spaces between my lower teeth. The treatment for me lasts about a year but I know several people who only had to do it for six months. They place resin (or I'm assuming something like that) on some of your teeth so that when you put the retainers in they can actually move your teeth. Because I had to do a decent amount of moving for my teeth the resin 'bumps' are larger and fairly noticeable when I have the trays out, but I still would rather contend with that than metal braces. After I'm done with treatment they will of course take the resin off and I will have a clear retainer I will have to wear everyday at first and then switch to nights only. It is a little annoying have to always brush your teeth very very well after eating and washing the trays but I am def happy with the results. I have to say the only thing I really could have done without was when they had to take what looked like a tiny electrical saw and rough metal dental floss and make space for my teeth to fit back in. Eek! But not everyone has to go through that :)
Posted February 22, 2012 11:58 AM EST
I wore braces from ages 12-14, the old metal kind and believe me I burned those photos- hideous! But recently I've noticed my bottom teeth have started to shift ever so slightly, I'm in my late 20's now and those retainers are long gone. I refuse to ever have a metal mouth again so I've been looking into invisalign. How does this actually work, when do I wear the trays?
Posted February 22, 2012 4:18 AM EST

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