What is Malocclusion?
Malocclusion is the clinical term for misaligned teeth that can lead to oral health complications like overbite, underbite, crossbite, and overcrowding. As the teeth are misaligned, it becomes difficult to perform vital oral functions like chewing, biting and speaking but an orthodontist is specially trained in treating all types of malocclusions and can effectively correct the way your teeth line up in the jaw. Orthodontic treatment involves a variety of tools and techniques to move the misaligned jaw and crooked teeth into the right positions.
Different Types of Malocclusions
Overcrowding is a common condition typically caused due to lack of space resulting from overlapping or crooked teeth.
When there is too much or too little space for the teeth, it results in crowding which can adversely impact the eruption of permanent teeth.
When the upper and lower front teeth do not overlap each other, it results in the formation of an opening that leads straight into the mouth. The problem of an open bite can also occur on the sides of the mouth.
An overjet is when the top front teeth extend beyond the lower front teeth horizontally, interfering with the functions of chewing food and speaking.
Some overlapping of the lower front teeth is natural but when the upper front teeth are biting down right into the gums, an increased overbite is caused where the lower front teeth can also bite into the roof of the mouth.
When the lower front teeth are positioned far forward than the upper front teeth, it results in an underbite which is also known as anterior crossbite.
A crossbite can happen on either or both the sides of the jaw when the upper front teeth are biting right inside the lower teeth. The condition can also affect your front or back teeth.
Diastema refers to the space between two adjacent teeth, usually the front teeth.
- Impacted Tooth
An impacted tooth is the one that cannot erupt from the gum naturally and needs to be extracted or exposed so that a brace can be fitted.
- Missing tooth
Also known as hypdontia, this condition occurs as a result of trauma or improper development of teeth.
Common Causes of Malocclusion
Typically an inherited condition that is passed from one generation to the next, malocclusion can also occur due to certain conditions or habits that induce changes in the shape and structure of the jaw. A common cause is too much or too little room to erupt as a result of which the teeth tend to drift out of their place. Other major causes of malocclusion inclusion include:
- Tooth loss
- Prolonged use of pacifier
- Thumb sucking
- Cleft lip and palate
- Injuries and trauma
- Tumors in the mouth
- Bottle feeding
- Impacted tooth
- Lack of oral care
- Airway obstructed by enlarged adenoids or allergies
The Symptoms of Malocclusion
Depending on the type of malocclusion, the symptoms may be may be mild, moderate or severe. Common symptoms include:
- Misaligned teeth
- Discomfort when biting or chewing food
- Speech problems
- Difficulty in breathing through the mouth
- Frequent biting of tongue or cheeks
- Change in the facial structure
A dentist checks for malocclusion in children during regular dental visits and if the teeth seem out of line or the jaw appears distorted, the child may be referred to an orthodontist. The orthodontist will then examine:
- The child’s medical history to identify past health problems
- The teeth and mouth
- X-rays of the teeth and face
As recommended by The American Association of Orthodontists, every child should get a dental check up with an orthodontist by the age of seven and regular dental visits should commence at the age of 12 months. Regular dental visits help in the identification of dental problems early on so that treatment can be initiated in time.
How is Malocclusion Treated?
Crowding is the most common oral problem affecting children so the very first step of treating malocclusion is the removal of baby teeth. This helps in making more room for the permanent teeth to erupt. In certain cases, the child is also made to wear a device that helps the jaw shift into a better position. This treatment is called growth modification and it gives the best results during a child’s growth spurt.
The next step of the treatment involves the use of orthodontic braces that are designed to move the teeth for correcting the bite. Braces are highly effective in straightening the teeth and moving the jaw into the right position. Teeth have a tendency to move out of place so many people also need to use retainers following the removal of braces.
Orthodontic treatment usually takes up to 2 years but in case of an adult, it may take longer than planned. If you are an adult and your orthodontist suggests a jaw surgery, you can also consider a second opinion to ensure that you take a decision that you feel is right. Orthodontic treatment is for everyone regardless of age so if you want to know the best course of dental care or want to discuss your treatment options, contact Thurman Orthodontics today at 559-439-0425 and schedule your complimentary first visit.