What Does Ideal Teeth Alignment Look Like?

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Table of Contents

  1. Ideal Teeth Alignment
  2. Incorrect Teeth Alignment Dangers
  3. Proper Alignment Influencing Factors
  4. Grading of Malocclusions
  5. Options for Fixing Tooth Alignment
  6. Getting Proper Dental Care
  7. Teeth Alignment & Your Health
  8. Early Signs of Teeth Misalignment
  9. Malocclusions
  10. Insurance Coverage
  11. How to Choose the Right Method
  12. Frequently Asked Questions

While each person’s bite is a little bit different, dentists base healthy mouths on ideal teeth alignment or a normal bite occlusion.

Almost no one has a perfect bite from the time their adult teeth come in. Even people who seem to have perfectly straight teeth when they smile may have some misalignment that impacts their oral health.

If your teeth are crooked, don't worry. There are plenty of treatment options.

ideal teeth alignment

What Does Ideal teeth Alignment Look Like?

Ideal teeth alignment should involve the following:

  • Upper teeth slightly overlapping the lower teeth

  • Points of the molars fitting into the grooves of the opposite molars

  • Symmetry between the upper and lower jaw lines

  • Top and bottom incisors that meet in a straight line

  • Be comfortable and pain-free, with little wear and tear on specific teeth

What are the Dangers of Incorrect Teeth Alignment?

If your teeth do not meet properly, you may struggle with some of these issues:

It's hard to keep your teeth clean when they're crossed or filled with gaps. And when you eat, your food can get caught in your teeth. Trapped food plus poor cleaning can lead to plaque and decay.

Teeth that touch and bang against each other can get damaged. Each time you bite down, you could do even more damage. Worn enamel and cracked teeth can result.

Trapped food and bacteria buildup can lead to odors. Your family may notice problems when you speak, sing, or eat.

The Impact of Teeth Alignment on Overall Health

Poor teeth alignment can do more than ruin your smile. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says poor oral health is associated with chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

Consider tooth decay. If your teeth don’t meet properly, food and debris can get trapped and break down. Added sugars provide a tasty meal for bacteria, which can cause an abscess under the gums. Bacteria from that abscess can spread to other parts of your body, including your heart.  

In a study published in the journal Heliyon, researchers examined the link between physical fitness and oral health. They reviewed 2,651 published studies on the topic and found evidence that people with periodontal conditions had a lower level of physical fitness. They theorize that inflammation caused by poor oral health can spark more inflammation throughout the body and reduce muscle mass, overall strength, and function. 

Taking care of teeth alignment could be good for the way you look and feel when you smile. As this research suggests, it could also be good for your overall health.

Factors that Influence Proper Alignment

Why are your teeth in unusual positions? Some factors are outside your control. Knowing what these issues are can help you decide what to do next.

Proper alignment can be influenced by the following:

  • Skeletal structure

  • Tooth size 

  • Shape of your teeth 

  • Position of your teeth 

Genetics determine the size and shape of your teeth and jaw, which can also impact how serious any misalignment or malocclusions are. 

Many people have teeth that are crowded or spaced. They may have a jaw that is too small for the upper palate or vice versa, or they might have an overbite or underbite.

Early Signs of Teeth Misalignment

Adults may know that their teeth don’t meet properly. But what about younger people? It’s smart to pay close attention to the early warning signs of tooth misalignment, so you can get help when your child needs it.

These are common early symptoms of teeth misalignment:

  • Difficulty speaking clearly

  • Trouble eating without spitting

  • Mouth breathing

  • Losing baby teeth too soon or very late

  • Child complaining of pain in the teeth or jaw

Malocclusions of the Teeth or Jaw

The term malocclusion is Latin for “bad bite.” The American Association of Orthodontics says the term applies when teeth meet improperly or not at all

A malocclusion could involve the following:

  • Spacing, or gaps between your teeth

  • Crowding, where teeth overlap and thrust each other out of line

  • Overbites, when the top teeth are too far in front of the lower teeth

  • Underbites, when the bottom teeth protrude in front of the top teeth

  • Crossbites, when the upper teeth sit inside the lower teeth. This can occur with the front or back teeth

  • Open bites, when the front teeth do not overlap the bottom teeth.

Grading of Malocclusions

There are three diagnosable grades of malocclusions.

  1. Class 1: The upper teeth slightly overlap the lower teeth, but it is considered normal.

  2. Class 2: The upper jaw and teeth significantly overlap the lower jaw and teeth.

  3. Class 3: The lower jaw and teeth jut in front of the upper jaw and teeth.

How do you know if you have ideal teeth alignment or a normal bite occlusion? The best way to know is to talk to your dentist during a regular checkup, or get assessed by an aligner company.

Options for Fixing Tooth Alignment Issues

About a quarter of all adults don't like smiling because of their teeth. If a crowded, painful set of teeth keeps you from expressing your emotions, you can get help.

Three main options exist, as summarized in the table below:




Who Is It For?


Appropriate for significant cases and can be used in adults

Not removable, can be painful, an expensive choice

People with significant tooth alignment issues that don’t respond to other forms of care


Can be removed, less visible, less expensive than other treatment types

Not appropriate for all cases, requires close compliance with the treatment plan

People with mild-to-moderate alignment issues


Offers a permanent solution, can be used with aligners and braces

Not always appropriate for adults, can be painful

Children and young adults with jaws that are too small for their teeth

Your dentist affixes brackets to your teeth and then slides wires between them. The wires get shorter with each dental visit, and slowly, your teeth are pulled into their proper positions.

Braces can be costly, and the brackets can scrape and cut your tongue and lips. But this method is appropriate for people with teeth far out of alignment. It's a time-tested method for effectively straightening your teeth.

One of the most popular ways to straighten teeth is using clear aligners. Your dentist can help you fit these aligners if you have severe misalignment issues. If you have mild to moderate bite problems, mail-order aligners may be a good option.

These aligners are made by dental professionals based on impressions you send in, so they will help you get your smile perfect. They are often less expensive than clear aligners from your dentist, and they take less time than traditional braces.

Are your teeth out of alignment because your jaw is too short or narrow? Your dentist can apply devices on the arch of your mouth, slowly nudging your jaw into a new shape and size. A device like this can give your teeth more breathing room, which could help ease alignment problems.

Expanders are sometimes used in conjunction with aligners and braces. Your teeth may not take up new positions without encouragement.

Insurance Coverage & Financial Assistance

While some dental plans cover orthodontic care for everyone, many restrict coverage to people 18 and younger. If you’re an adult, you may need to investigate alternate payment options.

Your insurance plan may provide a discount program that could help with the cost of braces. In a plan like this, you choose from the company’s list of preferred providers and pay less for the orthodontic care you need.

You may have a health savings account (HSA) through your employer. If so, this plan allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars for qualified health expenses, including orthodontic care.

If you don’t have insurance or an HSA, ask your provider for options such as payment plans and financing.

How to Choose the Right Treatment Option for You

Several options are available to help you straighten your teeth and pull them into the proper alignment. How can you choose the right one for you?

Follow these steps:

  1. Talk to your dentist. Ask for a comprehensive exam that includes an assessment of your tooth and jaw alignment. Ensure that your dentist grades the alignment problem, so you know what sorts of treatments might be appropriate.

  2. Contact your insurance. Some dental insurance plans include coverage for orthopedic procedures, but others don’t. A conversation can help you understand how much you’ll have to pay for an improved smile.

  3. Reach out to providers. Contact teams that provide the treatment that seems right for you, and ask if they’re available to help with your smile.

Getting Proper Dental Care Can Help You Get Ideal Teeth Alignment

Your teeth will move throughout your life. In fact, some of your teeth will start to move when you enter your 20s, and they'll keep moving based on how you use them. If you grit your teeth, chew hard foods, or opt out of dental care, they'll move even more.

You can slow or stop this process by doing the following:

  • Chewing the right way: Your teeth aren't tools. Pick up scissors and other devices instead of using your teeth.

  • Keeping them clean: Brush and floss regularly. Ask your doctor if dental rinses are right for you too.

  • Visiting a dentist regularly: See a dental professional for checkups and cleanings. Never skip your appointments.

Ideal Teeth Alignment Frequently Asked Questions

A well-aligned mouth doesn't cause pain at rest or while working. Your teeth aren't chipped or ground down due to uneven forces, and your tongue and cheeks are free from scratches and bite marks.

During your dentist's checkup visits, words like malocclusion, crossbite, and open bite don't come up.

A healthy jaw can bite down in two ways:

  • Front teeth tap: You're taking a bite of something like a cracker. Your front and lower middle teeth touch to snap off a bite. But your lower teeth don't touch during this movement.

  • Back teeth tap: You're chewing the bite of cracker. Your front teeth no longer touch as the upper incisors slide over their lower cousins. But your back teeth touch.

Can't visualize this movement? Grab some crackers and experiment. If all of your teeth touch all of the time when you're biting, you're likely dealing with misalignment.

While you're resting, your teeth should be apart. You could be dealing with a tooth alignment or a jaw issue if they're touching or clenched.

Your jaw muscles push your mouth open and closed. If you're keeping those fibers active, you're grinding those teeth together when they should be resting.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.