Some adults find themselves with teeth that look small or childlike compared to others. This can be caused by genetics, childhood dental issues, or lifestyle choices. While childish teeth may seem like just a cosmetic issue, they can lead to dental health problems and affect self-confidence. This article explores the potential causes of childish teeth in adulthood and what can be done to improve their appearance and function.
What are childish teeth?
Childish teeth refer to teeth that are small, narrow, short, irregularly spaced, or retain a juvenile shape beyond childhood.
Some common characteristics of childish teeth in adults include:
- Small or narrow incisors and canines
- Short, stubby, or peg-shaped lateral incisors
- Gaps between teeth due to undersized or missing teeth
- Crooked or crowded teeth
- Overbites or underbites
- Retained baby teeth beyond childhood
While children naturally have smaller jaws and teeth that are still developing, childish teeth in mature adults can look out of proportion. The teeth may seem too small for the size of the face and mouth.
What causes childish teeth in adults?
There are several possible causes of childish teeth in adulthood:
Genetics play a major role in tooth and jaw size. Many adults inherit childish teeth from their parents. Specific genetic conditions like ectodermal dysplasia can also cause missing or abnormally shaped teeth.
Childhood dental issues
Problems like premature baby tooth loss, cavities, trauma to the mouth, orthodontic extractions, or radiation therapy during childhood can all affect permanent tooth development and lead to childish teeth later in life.
Chronic gingivitis and periodontitis cause inflammation, receding gums, and bone loss. This shrinks the support structures for teeth, making them look smaller and more childlike.
Poor oral hygiene
Not properly brushing and flossing allows plaque buildup that damages tooth enamel. Loss of enamel over time gives teeth a smaller, worn down appearance.
Tongue thrusting or mouth breathing habits
Constantly pushing the tongue against the teeth or breathing through the mouth can apply excessive pressure on the teeth, restricting their growth.
Lacking key nutrients when teeth are still developing often leads to enamel defects, altered growth, and poorly shaped adult teeth.
Tobacco use constricts blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the teeth. This can impair development and cause staining that wears down enamel.
Problems caused by childish teeth
While seemingly just a cosmetic problem, childish teeth can lead to various dental health and self-image issues:
- Tooth decay – Smaller teeth have increased grooves and crevices where plaque can collect and cause cavities.
- Gum disease – Gaps between small teeth create traps for bacteria to accumulate and infect gums.
- Chewing and biting problems – Reduced tooth surface area makes chewing and biting less efficient.
- TMJ disorders – Misaligned bites put more pressure on the jaw joint, increasing the risk of TMJ disorders.
- Speech impediments – Gaps between teeth can cause lisping or whistling sounds.
- Low self-confidence – Feeling embarrassed or self-conscious about childlike teeth can lower self-esteem.
Treatment options for childish teeth
If childish teeth are causing dental problems or appearance concerns, there are treatment options available:
Tooth-colored resin material is applied to teeth to improve shape, fill gaps, and increase width or length.
Thincustomized porcelain covers are adhered to teeth to create a more uniform, mature look.
Caps made of ceramic or porcelain completely cover teeth to elongate,widen, orre-shape them.
Braces, clear aligners, or retainers can close gaps and straighten crooked teeth for a full adult smile.
Titanium posts fused to the jawbone can replace congenitally missing teeth and provide permanent tooth root support.
Tooth extraction with bridges or partials
Removing small, misshapen teeth allows replacement with prosthetic teethon bridges or removable partial dentures.
Improving childish teeth appearance and health
Along with cosmetic treatments, good oral care practices can help improve the look and function of childish teeth:
- Brush twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste
- Floss daily to clean between teeth
- Use antibacterial mouthwash to reduce bacteria and plaque
- Receive regular dental cleanings and checkups
- Wear a custom night guard if you grind your teeth
- Quit smoking and limit staining foods/drinks
- Get dental sealants applied to protect molars
- Receive regular orthodontic retainers if you’ve had braces
With proper care and cosmetic treatments, adults with childish teeth can gain a more mature, confident smile. Consult a dentist to discuss which options are best for your unique situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I still have baby teeth as an adult?
Retained baby teeth in adulthood usually occur because the permanent teeth are either missing congenitally or impacted. Seeking orthodontic treatment can help bring impacted permanent teeth into proper position. Baby teeth with no permanent successors may need extraction and prosthetic tooth replacement.
Can I get dental veneers if I have childish teeth?
Yes, thin veneers are commonly used to reshape childish teeth. They add length, width, and uniformity. However, some natural tooth structure is removed, so veneers may not be the best option for severely worn or damaged teeth.
What is the best age to fix childish teeth?
Ideally in adolescence since orthodontic treatments work best while jaw growth is still active. But adults of any age can benefit from cosmetic treatments like veneers, crowns, and bonding to improve childish teeth.
Can childish teeth affect my bite?
Yes, gaps, small teeth, and other irregularities associated with childish teeth can cause bite problems like overbites, underbites, crossbites, and open bites. Orthodontics may be needed to correct the bite alignment.
Should I extract some childish teeth to make room?
That depends on your specific case. If teeth are severely crowded due to having childish teeth too large for the space, strategic extraction followed by orthodontics can help align the remaining teeth. Consult an orthodontist to determine the best treatment plan.