Malocclusion. It’s a weird word that most people don’t know the definition of.
But, if you’re not happy with the look or feel of your teeth, it’s possibly you have malocclusion.Creative Commons
What Is Malocclusion?
Malocclusion is a fancy word for a person’s upper and lower teeth not lining up with each other. There are many types of malocclusion, which we’ll get into below:
- Overcrowding: This is a very common malocclusion, often caused by not enough space in the mouth. Hence, the teeth are crowded to the point that they overlap and become crooked.
- Overjet: Overjet is when your top teeth stick out over your bottom teeth horizontally. It’s often confused with overbite, but it’s not the same thing. Overjet can lead to teeth damage as well as problems eating or speaking.
- Overbite: It’s natural for your upper teeth to slightly overlap your lower front teeth, but if the overlap is severe, it can cause your top teeth to bite down into your gums. This is called overbite (aka “buck teeth”) and can cause damage to your gums over time.
- Crossbite: With a crossbite, your upper teeth bite down on the inner part of your lower teeth. This can occur on one or both sides of your mouth and can affect either one or both your front and back teeth.
- Anterior Crossbite (Underbite): When you have a crossbite that affects just your front teeth, it’s called an anterior crossbite or an underbite.
- Spacing: You can have spacing because of missing teeth, small-than-normal teeth, thumb, sucking, or tongue thrusting.
- Diastema: A diastema is another name for a space between your teeth. In most cases, it’s the front teeth. A lot of times, this is not a problem besides it being an aesthetical preference.
- Impacted Teeth: When a tooth is unable to erupt (i.e. grown in) properly, that’s known as an impacted tooth. Sometimes, it may require a tooth removal or braces.
- Open Bite: When your front teeth don’t overlap your lower teeth, that’s called an open bite.
Causes Of Malocclusion
The main cause of malocclusion is usually genetics. But there are some non-hereditary reasons for experiencing bite problems.
These can include:
- Cleft lip or palate
- Pacifier use past 3 years old
- Bottle feeding into early childhood
- Frequent thumb sucking into early childhood
- Acute injuries to the jaw (which can also lead to TMJ dysfunction)
- Mouth or jaw tumors
- Impacted teeth
- Mouth breathing
The symptoms of malocclusion can vary depending on what class of malocclusion it is (more on that below). But here are some of the most common signs of bite problems:
- Visibly noticeable misalignment of the teeth
- Accidental biting of the tongue or inner cheeks
- Discomfort or pain when biting or chewing foods
- Difficulty speaking or a speech impediment
- Mouth breathing
Now let’s cover the different classes of malocclusion — another way of saying, “How severe is the problem?”
Class 1 Malocclusion
With a class 1 malocclusion, you’ll see a mild overlapping of lower teeth by the upper teeth. However, the bite is normal.
This is the most common type of malocclusion.
Class 2 Malocclusion
When an overbite becomes severe — when the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth significantly — this is a class 2 malocclusion.
Class 3 Malocclusion
When things get really bad — especially in the case of a severe underbite — it’s classified as a class 3 malocclusion.
How Is Malocclusion Diagnosed?
Your dentist will be able to diagnose you with malocclusion during a routine exam. They may order an X-ray of your teeth to make sure.
So if you have or are currently experiencing any of the symptoms of malocclusion, you should speak with your dentist and schedule an appointment.
If you have mild malocclusion (Class 1), you may not need any treatment. Most of the time Class 1 misalignment doesn’t cause any pain, discomfort, or chewing problems (in which case you should eat soft foods).
However, if you have a Class 2 or 3 malocclusion, you may need some of the following treatment options:
- Tooth extraction
- Reshaping teeth
- Capping teeth
- Bonding teeth
- Jaw surgery
- Wires and/or plates to keep the jaw stable
As with nearly every treatment for oral issues, there can be complications. Some of them can include:
- Tooth decay (can be deterred by brushing and flossing your teeth)
- Discomfort and pain
- Difficulty speaking or chewing while undergoing treatment
- Malocclusion simply means the upper and lower teeth are misaligned. This can include overcrowding, buck teeth, spacing, and impacted teeth.
- Even though the main reason people experience malocclusion is genetics, it can happen for a number of other reasons, like poor oral care.
- The main symptoms of malocclusion will be obvious if you have a case severe enough that need treatment, like noticeably misaligned teeth and discomfort.
- Malocclusion is diagnosed based on severity (aka “class), with class 1 being the mildest and class 3 being the most severe.
- For diagnoses and treatment of malocclusion, you should speak with your dentist to get a checkup.